MILWAUKEE -- Josh Hader’s arbitration eligibility will be among the significant offseason matters for the Brewers, who abruptly turned an eye toward 2020 after the lefty absorbed a heartbreaking loss in the National League Wild Card Game.
A baseball source confirmed that Hader will qualify for arbitration as a Super Two with two years and 115 days of Major League service time -- which happens to be precisely the threshold this year. That means he is in line for a significant raise from the $687,600 he earned while posting the fourth-highest strikeout rate all time (47.8 percent) for a pitcher who worked at least 50 innings. Hader bumped his 2018 season (46.7 percent) down to fifth.
Corey Knebel, another Brewers closer, qualified as a Super Two during the 2017-18 offseason and received a raise from $538,900 to $3.65 million. As the website MLB Trade Rumors noted, Knebel at the time had logged eight fewer saves, 37 fewer innings and 116 fewer strikeouts than Hader going into that extra year of arbitration.
And that is just one item of business for the Brewers as the offseason gets underway.
“We certainly have some important questions that we have to answer,” president of baseball operations David Stearns said.
Here’s a look at the landscape:
What are key dates?
• First day after the World Series: Teams can trade Major League players again, and eligible players become free agents. That starts a five-day “quiet period” in which free agents may negotiate only with their own team.
• Fifth day after the World Series: The last day to reinstate players from the 60-day injured list. The “quiet period” ends and Major League free agents are free to sign with clubs. Lastly, the deadline for clubs to tender qualifying offers to eligible free agents.
• Fifteenth day after the World Series ends: Deadline for players to accept qualifying offer.
• Nov. 20: The deadline to add players to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft.
• Dec. 9-12: Winter Meetings in San Diego, culminating with the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 12.
• Jan. 10, 2020: Eligible players and their teams exchange arbitration figures.
• Feb. 3, 2020: Arbitration hearings begin.
• Feb. 12, 2020: Brewers pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training.
Who are the Brewers’ free agents?
As of a flurry of roster moves on Nov. 1, 10 members of the Brewers’ roster at the end of the season had become free agents.
Five of them were bound for free agency all along: Matt Albers, Jay Jackson, Gio Gonzalez, Drew Pomeranz and Jordan Lyles. The unexpected name here is Jackson, indicating there is language in his contract that the Brewers will non-tender him. Jackson returned from three years in Japan on a Minor League deal in February with only 22 days of MLB service.
Two others -- Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas -- became free agents Friday, when they declined their half of mutual options. Grandal’s option was for $16 million with a $2.25 million buyout, while Moustakas’ was for $11 million with a $3 million buyout. Moustakas’ agent, Scott Boras, in early October described that as a formality, and he indicated his client would test the market again. Grandal was certain to do the same. The Brewers have not closed the door on bringing back either player.
“I don’t think it’s particularly controversial that I’d love to have both of them back,” Stearns said.
The Brewers also have a club option on first baseman Eric Thames for $7.5 million, with a $1 million buyout. That seems likely to be picked up after Thames posted an .851 OPS with 25 home runs and a 116 wRC+. Per his contract, Thames will be a free agent after 2020, even though he won’t have the six years of MLB service it typically takes to qualify.
Are any of those free agents likely to receive qualifying offers?
The Brewers cannot make a qualifying offer to Grandal or Moustakas because each player was already extended that offer by a previous club. Milwaukee's other pending free agents are unlikely to warrant such an offer of a one-year deal worth $17.8 million.
Who is arbitration-eligible?
With infielder Hernán Pérez having elected free agency on Oct. 16 and Tyler Austin and Cory Spangenberg having done the same on Nov. 1 after the team outrighted them to Triple-A, the Brewers were down to 13 players eligible for arbitration:
Chase Anderson (also has $8.5M club option with $500,000 buyout)
Orlando Arcia (first time)
Ben Gamel (first time)
Josh Hader (first time, Super Two)
Manny Piña (also has $1.85M club option with $150,000 buyout)
Brent Suter (first time)
Are any of those players non-tender candidates?
Shaw, who endured a tough year with a .157/.281/.270 slash line in the Majors, is the leading candidate to be cut loose after he earned $4.675 million. But in each of the two years before that, he topped 30 homers.
“We’re going to have to spend a lot of effort internally determining what to do there,” Stearns said. “And by the time we get to December, we’ll have a decision.”
The same could go for Nelson and Saladino. Nelson earned $3.7 million last season while completing his comeback from major right shoulder surgery. After both sides worked so hard over parts of three years to get him healthy again, it’s an interesting call.
Who needs to be added to the 40-man roster this winter?
Knebel and Bobby Wahl are on the 60-day IL, and they must be reinstated to the 40-man by Monday. Several weeks later comes the deadline to add Minor League prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from the Rule 5 Draft. Among the Brewers farmhands in this category, according to the annually excellent accounting of the website Brewerfan.net, are top pitching prospect Zack Brown (No. 3) and fellow Top 15 MLB Pipeline Brewers prospects Corey Ray (No. 4) and Lucas Erceg (No. 14).