The reliever who moonlights as a real-estate mogul

April 23rd, 2024

This story was excerpted from Adam McCalvy’s Brewers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

comes at his role in the Brewers’ bullpen a bit differently.

In May 2015, following his release by the Rockies a month after his 21st birthday, Payamps faced the reality that his career in professional baseball was at best fleeting and at worst over. So, he went home to Santiago in the Dominican Republic and joined a small car-rental business, sharpening the skills he uses today as a budding real-estate developer.

Because of those experiences -- released at 21, waived five times, traded for cash on one occasion and then traded again as an extra piece of the three-team, eight-player deal that brought Payamps to Milwaukee -- his job facing the best hitters on the planet in high-leverage spots hits differently now. At 30, he’s in the prime of his baseball life.

“Early in my career, I learned that a baseball life is short,” Payamps said. “But when I got here, I found coaches and a front office who believed in my talent.”

Payamps spoke in a rare extended conversation in the dugout at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, where he would later walk home the tying run for a blown save on Friday and then earn a sweep-clinching save in Sunday afternoon's finale. It was a dramatic example of the highs and lows for pitchers who earn a living in the late innings.

That’s part of the job for Payamps, whose perspective about the whole endeavor was shaped by being released when many pro players his age are just getting started. With no other prospects to pitch, he went back to Santiago and connected with a former classmate who was running a private car-rental business. Payamps was able to add two cars to the fleet and reaped income that he reinvested into additional vehicles. He also began dabbling in real estate, buying small apartments and fixing them up. You’ll find a link to one of his rental properties on his Instagram.

“For a moment I thought my baseball career was over,” Payamps said. “I tried to start a new life. Like we sometimes say, a ‘normal’ life.”

Baseball wasn’t done with him. For fun, Payamps pitched in an amateur league in the Dominican Republic, which happened to be seeking arms for its national team ahead of qualifying for that November’s Premier12 tournament in Japan. Wellington Cepeda -- a pitching coach then with the D-backs and now the Marlins’ bullpen coach -- recommended to Arizona’s front office that it should sign Payamps.

That’s how Payamps came back to pro ball in 2016 -- first in the D-backs' organization, then to the Red Sox, Blue Jays, Royals and A’s. By the time he was pitching in the Majors for Oakland in 2022, he’d been a Brewers target for some time, according to GM Matt Arnold.

That December, the Brewers found a way to bring Payamps in. The roots of that move are in the Josh Hader trade that July, which netted the Brewers four players, including speedy outfield prospect Esteury Ruiz. Since Milwaukee was flush with outfield prospects, club officials jumped into the fray when it was clear at the 2022 Winter Meetings that Oakland intended to move catcher Sean Murphy.

So, Arnold laid the groundwork for the three-team trade with the A’s and the Braves that recently has cast the Hader deal in a completely different light. The Brewers’ big score was William Contreras, a good hitter who has transformed into one of baseball’s best all-around catchers. And while it wasn’t much discussed at the time, Milwaukee also landed Payamps.

In the past year-plus, only lefty Hoby Milner has appeared for the Brewers more often than Payamps. Going into the current series in Pittsburgh, only five pitchers in MLB had more holds than Payamps’ 29 since the start of last year.

“You see that success and you can extend it to guys like Hoby and [Trevor] Megill and even Devin [Williams] at different points in his Minor League journey, and [Elvis] Peguero being one of three pieces in another trade,” Arnold said. “All of these guys have taken these long paths to us. We take a lot of pride in being able to identify those types of guys to hopefully unlock some things.”

Business still calls when Payamps isn’t pitching. Last March, his real-estate company commenced construction of its largest project to date, an eight-unit building that includes a pair of penthouses. It should be completed next month, Payamps said, and he hopes to flip funds from the sale of the units into an even bigger project.

“I took a chance and I enjoy it a lot,” Payamps said. “Between baseball and that, I’m really happy. I’m going to keep going. You never know.”