Brewers expected to start arbitration with 3
Peralta, Segura and Smith likely to be key 2016 contributors
MILWAUKEE -- Wily Peralta, Jean Segura and Will Smith will move closer to having their 2016 salaries set on Wednesday, the deadline for teams to tender 2016 contracts to unsigned players.
The 10:59 p.m. CT deadline is a mere formality for pre-arbitration players earning salaries near the league minimum, but sometimes more than a formality for players with enough Major League service time to qualify for arbitration.
The Brewers have three such players, each of whom is eligible for arbitration for the first time: starting pitcher Peralta, shortstop Segura and potential closer Smith. Players who are "non-tendered" on Wednesday will join the list of free agents. Players who are tendered a contract are considered signed for 2016, at a salary to be determined later via baseball's arbitration process.
The Brewers are widely expected to tender all three of their eligibles, all of whom project to play significant roles if they are not traded before the start of the season.
Here's a look at where each player stands:
• Peralta is a candidate to be the Brewers' Opening Day starter after earning $525,500 during an injury-plagued 2015 season. He was limited to 20 starts by a rib injury and finished 5-10 with a 4.72 ERA, marking a significant drop in production from his 17-11, 3.53 ERA performance in 32 starts in 2014.
• Based on arbitration history, Segura stands to receive the biggest raise after earning $534,000 in 2015. Now 25, Segura posted nearly identical numbers to the previous season, posting a slash line of .257/.281/.616 in 560 plate appearances. He did set a career high with 50 RBIs, but fell short of the offensive production that sent Segura to the All-Star Game in 2013, when a terrific first half propelled him to a .752 OPS for the season. Segura ranked next-to-last in OPS (.616) and hard-hit rate (19.7 percent) among the 20 Major League shortstops who qualified for a batting title.
Defense is Segura's strength, though the advanced metrics do not always agree. He tied for 14th among qualified shortstops (with the Cubs' Starlin Castro, who ultimately moved to second base, and the Tigers' Jose Iglesias) with 0.4 Defensive Wins Above Replacement.
• Considering the variety of roles he has filled in his career, Smith will be a tricky case in arbitration. The left-hander has pitched exclusively in relief with the Brewers, making 154 appearances with a 3.21 ERA over the past two seasons, and qualified for arbitration as a "Super Two" player with between two and three years of Major League service. That means he still has four years of club control.
Smith's value to the Brewers increased after the club traded closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Tigers, but salaries in arbitration are determined by past performance, not future prospects. Smith and right-hander Jeremy Jeffress are the leading internal candidates to close games for the Brewers in 2016.
The Brewers entered the offseason with one other arbitration-eligible player, but left-handed reliever Cesar Jimenez was outrighted to Triple-A Colorado Springs on Nov. 2.