MILWAUKEE -- “To some extent,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said back in early December when baseball’s offseason paused, “it did have that Trade Deadline feel."
Remember that? There was a flurry of activity around the sport in the hours and days leading up to MLB’s lockout, and the Brewers and Red Sox were the last clubs to make a move. Minutes before rosters were frozen, the teams engineered a trade that sent Jackie Bradley Jr. and prospects to Boston for power-hitting outfielder Hunter Renfroe. Now that baseball is back in business, it’s worth looking back at that transaction and the other moves that went down during the first portion of this two-part offseason.
Here’s what you need to know to get caught up:
What deals have already been done?
Nov. 3: Signed free agent RHP Trevor Gott
After having some luck in recent years acquiring relievers on low-risk deals, it was fitting that the Brewers’ first Major League move of the offseason was for 29-year-old reliever Gott. He has big league experience but pitched exclusively at the Triple-A level for the Giants last season. Notably, Gott is out of Minor League options.
Nov. 13: Acquired IF Mike Brosseau from the Rays for Minor League RHP Evan Reifert
Brosseau, 27, has four years of club control remaining and has the sort of defensive versatility that the Brewers love. He has Minor League options and could fill a role similar to the one Jace Peterson handled productively in 2021.
Nov. 22: Acquired RHP J.C. Mejía from Cleveland for a player to be named
Cleveland had an extensive list of prospects to protect from the Rule 5 Draft, which made Mejía available to the Brewers. He had an ugly Major League debut in 2021 -- 1-7 with an 8.25 ERA in 17 appearances (11 starts) -- but he was successful pitching over the winter in the Dominican Republic. The Brewers like his arm and Mejía has an option left, so he’ll get a chance to compete for a spot this spring.
Nov. 30: C Pedro Severino and C Brett Sullivan signed one-year contracts
The Brewers let Manny Piña go in free agency, so they brought in both catchers on one-year deals to back up primary catcher Omar Narváez. Severino figures to be the primary backup and platoon partner, a right-handed batter who hit .293 with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in 147 at-bats against left-handed pitching last season with Baltimore. Sullivan, meanwhile, spent the past six seasons in the Rays' Minor League system and has yet to make his big league debut. He has a full complement of Minor League options, which will allow the Brewers to send him up and down as needed.
Nov. 30: 1B Rowdy Tellez, UTIL Jace Peterson and RHP Jandel Gustave signed to one-year contracts
All three players were arbitration-eligible before coming to terms ahead of the non-tender deadline. Tellez, who provided the Brewers an offensive jolt after arriving from the Blue Jays in a July trade, is the leading candidate to man first base. “On-base Jace” was one of Milwaukee’s most pleasant surprises for most of 2021, bouncing around the infield and outfield with an on-base percentage north of .400 and an OPS north of .800 into the first week of September before a late-season fade. The Brewers love versatile defenders, and in the left-handed-hitting Peterson and the right-handed-hitting Brosseau, they now have two players who could open the season on the bench. Gustave represents a cost-effective option for the bullpen.
Dec. 1: Acquired OF Renfroe from Boston
The Brewers parted with prospects David Hamilton and Alex Binelas in order to move Bradley’s contract after one woeful season in Milwaukee and replace him with Renfroe, who topped 30 home runs in each of MLB’s last two full seasons. He’s Milwaukee’s leading candidate to man right field in the wake of Avisaíl García’s departure.
What about non-roster invitees?
Here is the current list of players who have signed Minor League contracts that include invitations to big league camp, or organizational players known to have been extended an invitation: Pitchers Jason Alexander, Rex Brothers, Moisés Gómez, Hobie Harris, Trevor Kelley and Connor Sadzeck; catcher Jakson Reetz; infielders Mark Mathias, Andruw Monasterio and Tyler White; and outfielders Abraham Almonte, David Dahl, Jonathan Davis and Garrett Whitley.
Who were the Brewers’ notable departures from last season?
García was the most notable departure, since there was some discussion about whether the Brewers might extend a qualifying offer. García, coming off a career-high 29 home runs, chose free agency. Infielder Eduardo Escobar, catcher Piña, starter Brett Anderson and relievers Brad Boxberger, Hunter Strickland and Daniel Norris were among Milwaukee’s other free agents.
Beyond those departures, the Brewers also opted to non-tender first baseman Daniel Vogelbach and reliever John Curtiss, and saw reliever Eric Yardley and catcher Luke Maile elect free agency after being outrighted from the 40-man roster.
Have any of those players already signed elsewhere?
García made the right call, since he signed a four-year deal with the Marlins that included a fifth-year option and reportedly guaranteed $53 million. Escobar signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Mets, and Piña got two years and $8 million with the Braves. All three players were lauded for their off-the-field presence in Milwaukee and will be missed in the clubhouse.
Might there be a reunion with any of their remaining free agents?
Never say never, although the two most effective players in that category in 2021, Boxberger and Strickland, earned a look at the open market and might not fit the budget given the Brewers’ other options and priorities. Boxberger was a non-roster invitee who stuck with the Brewers after being left off the Opening Day roster, only to lead the team with 71 appearances while delivering a 1.07 WHIP.
What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
A significant portion of the Brewers’ 2022 payroll will hinge on their 10 outstanding arbitration cases, which reads like a list of the team’s top players. In loose order of their projected salaries, the Brewers still must come to terms with Josh Hader, Renfroe, Brandon Woodruff, Narváez, Corbin Burnes, Willy Adames, Eric Lauer, Luis Urías, Adrian Houser and Brent Suter. Burnes, Adames, Lauer, Urías (a Super Two) and Houser are all arbitration-eligible for the first time.
How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?
As of the restart, the Brewers had 19 pitchers, four catchers, eight infielders and five outfielders on the 40-man roster, leaving four open spots.