Voit's status with Crew up in the air at contract deadline

March 16th, 2023

PHOENIX -- did his part to give the Brewers something to think about. 

Voit hit a long home run for an exclamation point in his bid to make the team during a 3-2 loss to the Angels on Thursday at American Family Fields of Phoenix. The veteran first baseman, who signed at the start of Spring Training as a non-roster invitee, had a clause in his contract that allowed him to elect free agency again if the Brewers didn’t add him to the 40-man roster by the end of the day. 

“I know they want me here, but obviously these teams hold these roster spots [open] until Opening Day because you don’t know what can happen with injuries,” Voit said. “There’s two weeks left. All I’m doing is making their decision harder, and we’ll see what happens.

“If not, then that’s the reason for the opt-out. We’ll see if another team comes in and swoops me up.” 

Thursday’s deadline had the potential for a number of different results. Voit could be added to the 40-man roster. He could be left off, and opt for free agency. Or, he could be left off and elect to stay in camp for now. 

“Obviously they’re a team I wanted to come to,” Voit said. “There’s a reason I’m here instead of somewhere else. There were a number of different places I could have gone. It seemed like a good fit, and so far it’s been good, but there are still two weeks left and a lot of decisions they have to make, me being one of them. All I can do is go out there and worry about myself and keep swinging the way I have been.”

Voit did a good job of that in recent days. In his final three games before the opt-out, he homered against the Cubs on Sunday, tallied two hits including a double and an RBI against the Reds on Monday, then homered again on Thursday off Angels left-hander Reid Detmers -- a towering shot to left-center field.

That’s the sort of power that attracted the Brewers to Voit, who hit 22 home runs last season for the Padres and Nationals.

“I think Luke has swung the bat very well. That’s what we brought him here to do,” manager Craig Counsell said. “As we’ve gone on in the spring, he’s kind of gotten more locked in. That’s a very good sign. He’s doing what he’s supposed to do.”

However, the question was whether he fits the Brewers’ roster puzzle.

The Brewers could use a jolt of right-handed power after they went 27-25 against left-handed starters last season and combined for 92 weighted runs created plus overall against lefties -- meaning they produced eight percent below league average. That ranked 22nd in the Majors. But Voit happens to have reverse splits, both for his career (.768 OPS vs. lefties, .838 OPS vs. righties) and in 2022 (.569 OPS vs. lefties, .767 OPS vs. righties).

As for the roster fit, the Brewers could relatively easily free a spot on their full 40-man roster by shifting Aaron Ashby or Justin Wilson to the 60-day injured list. But they’ll also need a spot for outfielder Tyler Naquin or another non-roster player, and teams always like to preserve as much 40-man flexibility as possible at this time of year to account for players who become available at the end of Spring Training. Given the Brewers’ current outfield situation, with Tyrone Taylor down with an elbow injury and Garrett Mitchell working back from a minor hamstring tweak, that’s one area of focus.

Then there is the matter of how Voit fits with the other hitters on the roster. He and incumbent first baseman Rowdy Tellez are both limited to that position. There’s the designated hitter, but many of those at-bats are expected to go to Jesse Winker early in the season because he’s coming back from neck and knee surgeries. The Brewers also hope to give DH at-bats to left fielder Christian Yelich and catcher William Contreras.

So, all of those matters were under consideration as Voit performed this spring.

“Hopefully the baseball gods give me something here pretty soon,” Voit said. “I feel good and my swing feels great. It’s just a matter of time before something happens.”