MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers dropped another name into their pool of potential third basemen on Friday by agreeing to a one-year deal with veteran infielder Jedd Gyorko that includes a club option for 2021 and could mark the final addition to Milwaukee’s renovated infield.
Terms of the deal were not immediately known. To clear a spot on a full 40-man roster, right-hander Jake Faria was designated for assignment.
“When you look at the totality of options on our infield now, we are comfortable,” said Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns, who has been busy in recent weeks signing veteran infielders to short-term contracts. “We’re never going to stop looking to get better, and that’s true throughout the entirety of our roster. But we are comfortable with the grouping we have right now.”
Gyorko, 31, is a right-handed hitter who has shown power in the Major Leagues. He hit 23 home runs as a Padres rookie in 2013 and topped out at 30 home runs for the Cardinals in '16 during a run of three straight seasons with an adjusted OPS of at least 108. Gyorko split '19 between the Cardinals and Dodgers, and he was limited to 101 plate appearances in 62 games, in part because of calf and back injuries. He slashed .174/.248/.250.
In Milwaukee, Gyorko’s most likely landing spot would be third base, since the position he has played most in his career -- second base -- is occupied by rising star Keston Hiura. Although Hiura has defensive deficiencies, Brewers officials are committed to keeping him at second for the time being.
Shortstop, meanwhile, is a competition between newly acquired Luis Urías and incumbent Orlando Arcia. At first base, the Brewers signed left-handed slugger Justin Smoak and will pair him with Ryan Braun, whose services are less necessary in the outfield in the wake of the team’s two-year deal with Avisaíl García.
That leaves third, where Gyorko has appeared 278 times (220 starts) in his Major League career. The Brewers remain unsettled at that spot following the departures of Mike Moustakas to the Reds and Travis Shaw to the Blue Jays via free agency. Milwaukee did add a left-handed option for that position with the return of Eric Sogard on a one-year deal with a club option for 2021, coming off a very productive season split between the Jays and Rays.
“We feel like we have a number of players who fit in a variety of different ways, and that’s really helpful,” Stearns said. “It gives us options. It gives us depth. It allows us to see not only how the rest of the offseason unfolds, but how the first part of the season unfolds, in terms of how we want to structure a roster, how we want to play different players. It really gives Craig [Counsell] the ability to mix and match depending on who we’re playing.”
The Brewers’ offseason began with clearing payroll via a combination of free-agent departures (including Yasmani Grandal and Moustakas), declined options (Eric Thames) and non-tenders (Shaw). That put the team in position to spend relatively big if an opportunity presented itself.
Indeed, the Brewers have been busy since then, trading for catcher Omar Narváez from the Mariners and Urías and pitcher Eric Lauer from the Padres, then signing eight Major League free agents: Alex Claudio, Brett Anderson, Josh Lindblom, Ryon Healy, García, Smoak, Sogard and Gyorko. But most of those signings fall into the category of “modest” -- at least relative to this free-spending offseason around MLB. Only Lindblom’s three-year, $9.125 million contract guaranteed more than two years. Only García’s reached $10 million in total commitment.
Brewers fans expecting a big splash were left wanting. The team is betting that the “wide net” approach to roster building proves wise.
“When you go into an offseason, you have a variety of different paths you think you can take,” said Stearns, asked how this winter compared to his expectations in the fall. “There's never one set plan, there are many different paths and many different ideas. Certainly, the path we've gone down is one we've contemplated early in the offseason and even prior to the end of the regular season. There are other paths, as well, that didn't quite come to fruition. But we're pleased with the players we've been able to add and we're excited about where we're headed as we inch closer to Spring Training.”