Hot Stove season kicked off in earnest for the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday as the team tendered contracts to 14 arbitration-eligible players, agreed to one-year deals with two others, traded for one reliever and parted ways with four others.
“A ton of things happening today and a lot to balance for sure, both internally and externally with all the conversations we were having,” general manager Matt Arnold said Friday night. “But overall, we think we made some progress here with the moves we made.”
Here’s how the transactions broke down:
∙ Starters Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff and Eric Lauer, closer Devin Williams, reliever Hoby Milner, shortstop Willy Adames, outfielder Hunter Renfroe, first baseman Rowdy Tellez, infielders Luis Urías, Mike Brosseau and Keston Hiura and catcher Victor Caratini were all tendered contracts;
∙ Starter Adrian Houser and reliever Matt Bush signed one-year contracts to avoid arbitration.
∙ Reliever Javy Guerra was acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for a player to be named.
∙ Relievers Trevor Gott, Jandel Gustave and Luis Perdomo were non-tendered.
∙ Reliever Brent Suter was claimed off waivers by the Colorado Rockies.
There were really no surprises with regard to who the Brewers elected to bring back.
How much those players will wind up making is what bears watching with the Brewers unlikely to embark on any sort of external shopping spree this winter.
MLB Trade Rumors projects Burnes and Woodruff to make $11.4 and $11 million in arbitration respectively, with Renfroe coming in at $11.2 million and Adames $9.2 million.
Next in line are Tellez at $5.3 million and Lauer at $5.2 million. Williams, entering his first year of arbitration, came in at $3.2 million.
Arnold was asked if the next step will be to continue to seek long-term deals with at least a few of those players.
“I can’t get into specifics there, as you can imagine,” said Arnold. “But I will tell you we’re open to it and in the process of evaluating those things as we work through this. We do have plenty of time, we feel like, to have those discussions as we move forward.”
The Brewers did get some cost certainty by agreeing with Houser on a reported $3.6 million contract and with Bush on a reported $1.85 million contract.
Coming off a career year in 2021, Houser took a step back in his performance this past season, pitching to a 4.73 ERA across 22 games (21 starts) after losing his arbitration case in-season and landing a $2.425 million contract.
Over six seasons with the Brewers, Houser has a 3.97 ERA in 428 innings.
Houser battled inconsistent performance and injuries throughout 2022 while seeing his strikeout rate dip to just 15.2%, but some of his underlying numbers indicated his season was not as poor as it looked on the surface. Houser’s FIP (4.21) was actually lower than it was (4.33) when he pitched to a 3.22 ERA in 2021.
The Brewers also found themselves paying for a lack of starting pitching depth beyond their top six arms when injuries began to pile up last year, making it a relatively easy call to bring back Houser.
The right-handed Bush came to the Brewers in an Aug. 1 trade with the Texas Rangers.
He gave manager added flexibility at the back end of the bullpen but had a penchant for surrendering untimely homers (six in 23 innings over 25 appearances) and finished 0-2 with a 4.30 ERA and 29 strikeouts.
“What Adrian has meant to our rotation for a number of years and also Matt Bush, him coming in as another guy with a really big arm with the potential to pitch at the back end of games who showed some really positive flashes last year, yeah, we’re absolutely thrilled to have both of those guys back,” Arnold said.
Bush will be 37 next season.
Of the group of Gott, Gustave and Perdomo, Gott saw the most action with 45 ⅔ innings over 45 appearances but tailed off down the stretch and endured several stints on the injured list. He finished 3-4 with a 4.14 ERA.
“They’re all tough calls, right?” said Arnold. “These are tough decisions. We spent a lot of time talking about this with our staff. Trevor did a really nice job here but it’s just one of those things where you have to make a tough call and you continue to stay in touch with them and the other guys as well.”
The combination of Suter, Gott, Gustave, Perdomo and Brad Boxberger – bought out of his contract last week – contributed a total of 230 innings out of the bullpen in 2022.
Guerra, who recently turned 27, is a converted shortstop who has made just 44 relief appearances in the majors since 2019.
This past season, the right-hander went 2-1 with a 3.38 ERA and WHIP of 1.31 for the pitching-rich Rays. He only struck out nine in 16 innings over 17 appearances, but averaged 98.3 mph on his four-seam fastball and 97.2 mph with a sinker he utilizes to generate ground-ball outs.
“Guerra is a really interesting player,” said Arnold. “He’s got a great arm. We feel like he’s trending in the right direction. He’s a converted guy and he hasn’t been pitching full-time for that many years, so we still feel like there’s upside there with him.
“He’s pitching right now in winter ball and done a really good job there. We really like the arm and his stuff is top-end. It’s a guy that you bring into your mix with an upper-90s fastball that has a chance to pitch at the back end of games.
“Those are the kinds of guys that get us excited, and our group is excited to have him aboard.”
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers heat up hot stove by making multiple moves on Friday