When a club like the Brewers decides to non-tender a player like last year’s NL home run champion Chris Carter, it usually means that they didn’t feel he was worth the risk of going to arbitration. So now by the looks of things, they’re going about signing a host of players who hopefully add up to his production, but cost less money overall. Such is life for a small major league market team today.
Less than stellar defense, poor base running, too many strikeouts, or 41 home runs, 94 driven in, and 86 runs scored… your pick. Which would you rather have? The Brewers decided to take Door #3 and maybe even Doors #4, 5, and 6 to replace Chris Carter in their lineup. He is not the first big name to ever be non-tendered, and he won’t be the last. However, he is the first home run champion to be cut loose by his team. He is now a free agent and can sign with any team, including the Brewers.
What drove everything is (surprise!) money. Carter was predicted to earn somewhere around $11 million if he went to arbitration. For the Brewers, that was too big of a chunk to take from their budgeted payroll for 2017. For weeks they had tried to trade Carter, but there were no takers. And that could mean that the asking price was set too high by the Brewers, or that teams agreed that he wasn’t worth the money.
But the Resourceful Brewers Have Plan B
In any event, the Brewers immediately set out to patchwork a team together. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that “The Brewers had seven other arbitration-eligible players and signed two of them – second baseman Scooter Gennett to a $2.525 million deal and outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis to a split contract that pays him $900,000 if in the majors and $257,000 if in the minors.”
Gennett and Nieuwenhuis were responsible for a total of 27 home runs and 100 RBI with the Brewers last season, and the team will depend on them for more production in 2017.
And though it’s not likely that a large market team with money to burn won’t sign him, the Brewers still have an outside chance of re-signing Carter if the price gets more reasonable and within their budget.
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These are the constraints and complexities for a team like the Brewers. They have one of the most loyal fan bases in all of baseball. They have an attractive and fan friendly venue in Miller Park, and the city has a long baseball history that traces all the way back to the Home Run King (Yes, he is!), Hank Aaron, and the winningest left-handed pitcher of all time in Warren Spahn.
The only thing the Brewers don’t have is $11 million to spend on a player who, in a different scenario, they would probably sign with no hesitation.
And that’s why the luxury tax phase of the recent CBA negotiations was so important. And the fact that they kept the cap before tax from exploding into the stratosphere, with the threshold for 2017 being $195 million and increasing to just $206 million in 2019, should be a victory not only for small market teams like the Brewers, but for fans of baseball everywhere.
And that’s because when you have a team like the Brewers, you know that they’re going to take the money they receive from the “haves” and invest it in the team they present on the field for their fans… and not into the pockets of ownership.
So far, the moves made by the Brewers are not likely to land them a spot in the playoffs., especially considering the division they find themselves in. But at least they’re in the mix and trying.