MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' "file and trial" strategy proved effective once again in promoting deal-making on Friday, as the team and all six of its remaining arbitration-eligible players settled on one-year contracts at the filing deadline rather than take their differences to a hearing room.The players in question were reliever
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers' "file and trial" strategy proved effective once again in promoting deal-making on Friday, as the team and all six of its remaining arbitration-eligible players settled on one-year contracts at the filing deadline rather than take their differences to a hearing room.
The players in question were reliever Corey Knebel, third baseman Travis Shaw, catcher Manny Pina, starter Zach Davies, lefty reliever Alex Claudio and swingman Junior Guerra. All signed one-year contracts. Pina's included a club option for 2020.
All of the agreements came just ahead of Friday's deadline for clubs and their remaining unsigned arbitration-eligible players to formally exchange contract figures. The Brewers have not talked about their precise policy under general manager David Stearns, but it's widely believed they are a "file and trial" team. In other words, if the negotiations are not successfully resolved before the deadline, the sides cease talks and head to a hearing in February or March, at which time a panel of judges hears arguments and chooses one salary or the other, with no more compromise.
In 2016, the team took right-hander Chase Anderson to a hearing and won. That's the only hearing during Stearns' tenure.
Following is a rundown of Friday's agreements. The figures for Knebel, Guerra, Pina and Claudio were first reported by The Athletic. Knebel was eligible for arbitration for the second time after qualifying last year as a "Super Two" player. The others were first-time eligible.
2019 salary: $5.125 million
2018 salary: $3.65 million
Outlook: Knebel was an All-Star in 2017 and opened '18 as the team's closer, but he suffered a left hamstring injury during the opening homestand that cost him a month of the regular season. He returned to have a solid May and an excellent June (1.13 ERA, 0.875 WHIP) only to struggle in July and August to the point that the Brewers demoted him to the Minor Leagues. Upon returning, Knebel became critical to Milwaukee's surge to the National League Central title, logging 19 consecutive scoreless appearances before Chris Taylor touched him for a triple off the glove of a leaping Lorenzo Cain in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series. Knebel held on for the save in that game, then rattled off five more scoreless appearances in the seven-game series. He's expected to once again team up with Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress at the back end of Milwaukee's bullpen, where save opportunities could be shared in '19.
2019 salary: $4.675 million
2018 salary: $567,400
Outlook: Shaw topped 30 home runs and an .800 OPS for the second straight season while getting his first reps at second base. He agreed to move there after the Brewers traded for third baseman Mike Moustakas in July. With second base unsettled at the moment, the Crew's "default," according to Stearns, is to move Shaw back to third, where he has proven a solid defender. But if the team is unhappy with the choices at second, it could always sign or trade for a player to man third and move Shaw once again. Either way, his bat will figure prominently in the middle of the lineup.
2019 salary: $2.6 million
2018 salary: $572,000
Outlook: After two years as a regular member of Milwaukee's starting rotation with a sub-4.00 ERA, Davies endured a maddening 2018 marked by injuries, first to his right shoulder and then his back. He was limited to 66 innings over 13 regular-season starts, and then he was left off the roster for the NL Division Series against the Rockies and the initial NLCS roster. Davies was called into action during that series after Giovany Gonzalez injured his left ankle. As the Brewers head to camp and begin making decisions about their pitching rotation, it's worth noting that Davies is one of the pitchers who does have an option remaining.
2019 salary: $2.225 million
2018 salary: $546,200
Outlook: Perseverance paid off for Guerra, who earned his first seven-figure salary after playing baseball all over the world, including in Europe, before making his way to the Brewers via waiver claim in Stearns' very first move as GM in late 2015. Guerra had a magical '16 season and earned Opening Day starter duties the following year, but he has been unable to replicate that success. He seemed to settle into bullpen duty late last season, and it's possible that he will pitch out of the bullpen again in '19.
2019 salary: $1.6 million, plus club option for '20
2018 salary: $560,100
Outlook: The strong-armed Pina was poised to resume his timeshare behind the plate with Erik Kratz before the Brewers agreed with free-agent catcher Yasmani Grandal on an $18.25 million, one-year contract earlier this week. That clouded Milwaukee's catching situation, which also includes prospect Jacob Nottingham coming off his Major League debut in 2018. Pina and Kratz are both out of options, and their salaries don't become fully guaranteed until Opening Day. That means the Brewers could take all four catchers into camp and make decisions at the end of March.
2019 salary: $1.275 million
2018 salary: $560,100
Outlook: The Brewers traded their competitive balance pick in the 2019 Draft to Texas for 26-year-old Claudio on the final day of the Winter Meetings, adding an accomplished arm to the bullpen mix with three years of control and a Minor League option. Claudio, who turns 27 on Jan. 31, owns a 3.20 ERA and 12 saves in 208 appearances, including a pair of spot starts over five Major League seasons. He led the Rangers in appearances each of the past two seasons, but he was not as effective in 2018 (4.48 ERA, 1.52 WHIP in 66 games) as he was the year before, when he posted a 2.50 ERA and a sparkling 1.04 WHIP in 82 2/3 innings spanning 70 games.
The list of arbitration-eligible players was longer, but the Brewers opted not to tender contracts to Jonathan Schoop, Dan Jennings and Xavier Cedeno, making them free agents. Then they traded Domingo Santana to the Mariners.
Four other eligible players opted to settle earlier in the offseason: Jimmy Nelson ($3.7 million), Hernan Perez ($2.5 million), Kratz ($1.2 million) and Tyler Saladino ($887,500).
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.