Brock Holt signs 1-year deal; 'good fit' with Crew

Versatile veteran's contract has club option for 2021

February 19th, 2020

PHOENIX -- The Brewers finalized a deal with free-agent utility man on Wednesday morning, adding yet another multi-positional player to manager Craig Counsell’s arsenal.

Holt signed for one year with a club option for 2021, a common formula for the Brewers throughout their busy offseason. Terms of the contract were not immediately available.

“He's been a guy who's been on our radar for a while, even going back to the Travis Shaw trade [with Boston in December 2016],” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. “He's someone we talked about as being a good fit within our organization. To make this happen and bring him in as part of this group, we feel it's really beneficial to both sides.”

To make room on a full 40-man roster, the Brewers designated reliever Taylor Williams for assignment.

Holt, 31, played the past seven seasons for the Boston Red Sox and is a career .271/.340/.374 hitter who has started Major League games at every position but pitcher and catcher. He said he’d like to pitch an inning someday, but catcher, he can do without.

“It's like a first day of school,” Holt said. “I got here early to meet a few people and try and learn my way around, but once you put your pants on and get outside, it's just like anything else.”

Here are three things to know about Holt:

1) He fits right in because he fits everywhere
For a couple of years now, the Brewers have blended the lines between starting pitchers and relievers, culminating last season when, for the first time in 50 seasons as a franchise, not a single Milwaukee pitcher logged enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. Now, the position player group is looking the same way.

“I do see a lot of players getting a pretty good number of at-bats, and only maybe one or two players getting to a really high number,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “That’s how it’s shaping up to be. That means we’re sharing a lot of it; almost similar to how the pitching has looked. If there’s a comparison there, that’s it.”

Surely, Christian Yelich will have one of those “really high” totals if all goes well. Keston Hiura is a good bet for the other, though Lorenzo Cain and Avisaíl García are also expected to play a lot. At other positions, including catcher, first base, shortstop and third base, the Brewers will employ multiple players in search of the hot hand and a favorable matchup.

Holt will figure in all over the place, and he’s not the only one. Eric Sogard and Jedd Gyorko are similarly versatile across the infield. So is Luis Urías when he’s healthy, and Ronny Rodríguez if he’s on the team. Even Ryan Braun will move around the diamond this year, playing first base in addition to the corner outfield spots.

“I don't care where I play as long as I'm out there and able to help the team out,” Holt said. “That's kind of what's helped me stay in the big leagues and create a career for myself. It's something I enjoy doing, and I look forward to doing the same thing here.”

2) He is especially insurance for Hiura
Holt’s most common position in Boston was second base, where he saw recent action while Dustin Pedroia dealt with injury. That could be a spot to get at-bats in Milwaukee, as well, even though second-year player Hiura is entrenched at the position.

Holt bats left-handed and posted an OPS of .788 and .832 against right-handed pitchers in each of the past two seasons. Hiura bats right-handed.

“Probably the guy we were least protected on was Keston,” Counsell said. “We were depending on Keston a lot. This protects Keston, it protects us, just in case. Keston is going to be out there. This doesn’t take away from Keston’s playing time at all, but it does give us an ‘in case.’ The thing that we believe is that the ‘in case’ usually comes up.”

“We don't feel that you can ever have too many of those types of guys,” Stearns said.

3) Holt is a glue guy
“He's a culture guy. It's energy, it's positivity,” Stearns said. “It's playing the game hard and caring about winning. It's all of those things. He's been on really good teams -- he's been on world-championship teams. Bringing that type of perspective is an added benefit.”

Holt was a ninth-round Draft pick of Pittsburgh's in 2009 and was traded to Boston in December 2012 as part of a multi-player deal. He played for the World Series-winning Red Sox in '13 (though not in the postseason), then logged postseason at-bats in '16, '17 and for another World Series-winning team in '18. Holt famously hit for the cycle in the American League Division Series against the Yankees that year.

Now, the Brewers signed Holt because they think he can contribute, not because he has World Series rings. But the latter fact did not hurt his resume.

“Look, the more of those guys you can have, the better,” Counsell said. “He comes with a great reputation from everywhere he’s been. It means he’s affected people positively. It means they feel better about themselves coming away from an interaction with Brock Holt. That’s a great trait.

“It’s funny; ‘great teammate’ gets thrown around a lot and it’s a vague term. We probably use it too much, so I’m trying to stay away from that term and describe it a little better for you. We probably use it too much, because the guys who are really, really good at it lose credit, almost.”