Last night, more than any team in baseball, the Brewers dropped the non-tender hammer, cutting loose five players, none of whom were OBVIOUS non-tenders. To be sure, it was a group of role players, primarily, but the move raised eyebrows when considered in tandem with the departures of Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas, the trade of Zach Davies, the trade of Chase Anderson, the option decline of Eric Thames, and the reports that the Brewers are listening to offers for arbitration-eligible reliever Josh Hader.
Those raised eyebrows more or less wiggled in this direction:
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) December 3, 2019
Planning to cut payroll? That’s news to me, even after the Brewers blew away their previous record payroll in 2019. With Christian Yelich still in his best years, Lorenzo Cain being paid handsomely, and Josh Hader under control, it doesn’t seem like an ideal time for the Brewers to pare back payroll significantly unless they are planning to risk taking a step back in 2020.
Right now, the Brewers have comically little committed to the 2020 payroll – barely $60 million. If every non-contract guy on the roster wound up a pre-arb player making close to the minimum, that figure would reach $70 million. In other words, even if the Brewers *do* cut salary from last year, they still have a ton of room to work with to replace the significant losses they’ve seen in their lineup already this offseason.
And if they do not cut payroll? They can make some serious waves this offseason.
Time will tell, but the Brewers aren’t going to be out there saying they’re planning to cut, and the expectation is they’ve simply opened salary to spend salary:
Stearns on money saved thus far: "I expect us to invest in players throughout the course of the offseason. Having a little payroll flexibility doesn't hurt that."
— Tom (@Haudricourt) December 3, 2019
David Stearns cautions against drawing too-early conclusions about the Brewers' payroll purge in recent weeks: "We certainly intend to be competitive once again next year. … We've got a lot of offseason left."
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) December 3, 2019
To their credit, the Brewers played it very close to the vest the last two years on what their spending would look like, and even the local punditry expected them to max out considerably lower than where their final payroll wound up ($130+ range, around middle of the pack for MLB). Presuming that they will be cutting payroll now because of these trades/non-tenders/free agent departures is not a reasonable leap just yet.