As visions of free agents Shohei Ohtani and Cody Bellinger dance in Blue Jays’ fans heads, there are some interesting trade targets that shouldn’t be forgotten among the hype. One team that has proven very active already this young offseason is the Milwaukee Brewers.
They’ve already held a press conference to introduce their new manager, Pat Murphy, after Craig Counsell took his talents to the North Side of Chicago. Counsell managed the Brewers to a 707-635 (.531) record over the past nine seasons, a stretch that included three NL Central pennants and five trips to the postseason in the past six years, plus a heartbreaking 4-3 series loss at home to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2018 NLCS.
They traded Mark Canha to the Detroit Tigers for a minor league reliever, likely because they didn’t want to exercise an $11.5M club option on Canha’s services for the 2024 season. The trade saved the Brewers at least a $2M buyout if they’d declined the option. And they non-tendered former Blue Jay Rowdy Tellez and starter Brandon Woodruff, while adding Jake Bauers from the Yankees for two minor league outfielders.
But they have some more players to make decisions on this offseason, which is where the Blue Jays might have interest to deal again with the Brew Crew. While it might seem surprising for a team coming off a first place season with 92 wins in the NL Central, there are some team and player-specific reasons why they could deal some of their best players ahead of the upcoming season.
Carlos Santana, Jesse Winker and former Jay Josh Donaldson are already free agents, as are pitchers Wade Miley, Julio Teheran and Andrew Chafin. With those salaries dropping off, the 2024 team payroll is around $51M before adding back arbitration eligible players, which Roster Resource estimates at $47.7M.
But with three key players still potential free agents after the 2024 season, Milwaukee GM Matt Arnold and his front office have to weigh the trade value of dealing players with only one remaining year of team control, much like the Blue Jays did ahead of the 2023 season when they dealt Teoscar Hernández and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.