Crew inks catcher Sullivan to 1-year deal

Club adds catching depth ahead of Tuesday's non-tender deadline

November 30th, 2021

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers formally rounded out their catching corps Monday ahead of what is expected to be a busy non-tender deadline that will further shape the roster for 2022.

FanSided’s Robert Murray had reported Monday that the Brewers were in agreement with catcher Brett Sullivan on a one-year Major League contract that would position him to be Milwaukee’s No. 3 catcher behind Omar Narváez and the recently acquired Pedro Severino. On Tuesday morning, the Brewers confirmed both of their one-year deals for Severino and Sullivan, each player having completed a physical exam.

Sullivan, 27, is a left-handed hitter who has been part of multiple big league Spring Training camps for the Rays but has yet to make his Major League debut. He topped out at the Triple-A level in the Rays' system in 2021, slashing .223/.302/.375 with nine homers in 90 games, and has been playing in the Dominican this winter.

Barring a last-minute snag, he would be positioned to be the 2022 version of last season’s Luke Maile, who signed a one-year deal with the Brewers around this time and bounced back and forth between the Minors and Majors as needed before being outrighted from the 40-man roster earlier this month and electing free agency. Sullivan comes with a full complement of Minor League options.

The agreement with Sullivan came one day before the deadline for teams to tender contracts to their unsigned players for 2022, a process that was bumped up by two days this year so it comes before the expiration of baseball’s current Collective Bargaining Agreement on Wednesday night. Tuesday’s deadline is particularly important for the pricier arbitration-eligible players, some of whom around the game will be “non-tendered” by teams and cut loose into free agency.

Here are the eligible Brewers, with their service class and years of remaining control under MLB’s current system:

Narváez (five-plus of MLB service, one year of club control remaining)
• INF Jace Peterson (five-plus, one year of control)
• LHP Josh Hader (four-plus, two years of control)
• LHP Brent Suter (four-plus, two years of control)
• SS Willy Adames (three-plus, three years of control)
• RHP Corbin Burnes (three-plus, three years of control)
• RHP Jandel Gustave (three-plus, three years of control)
• RHP Adrian Houser (three-plus, three years of control)
• LHP Eric Lauer (three-plus, three years of control)
• 1B Rowdy Tellez (three-plus, three years of control)
• 1B Daniel Vogelbach (three-plus, three years of control)
• RHP Brandon Woodruff (three-plus, three years of control)
• 3B Luis Urías (Super Two, four years of club control remaining)

That group represents most of Milwaukee’s starting rotation (Burnes, Woodruff, Lauer and Houser), the three-time National League Reliever of the Year in Hader, as well as the club’s starting catcher (Narváez), shortstop (Adames) and projected starting first baseman (Tellez) and third baseman (Urías). All of those players are expected to be tendered contracts, and some are due significant raises as first-time arbitration-eligibles -- Burnes, Lauer, Houser, Adames and Urías.

Often, the non-tender deadline prompts agreements between players and teams. For example, at last year’s deadline, Narváez, catcher Manny Piña and shortstop Orlando Arcia agreed to one-year contracts at slight pay cuts to avoid potential non-tenders. On that same day, the Brewers traded reliever Corey Knebel, who was due north of $5 million coming off Tommy John surgery, to the Dodgers rather than non-tender him.

Tuesday’s 7 p.m. CT deadline could stimulate a similar level of activity.