Brandon Woodruff becomes free agent after Brewers fail to offer contract

MILWAUKEE (AP) — Brandon Woodruff wasn’t offered a contract by the Milwaukee Brewers by Friday’s deadline, making the two-time All-Star right-handed pitcher a free agent as he recovers from surgery to his throwing shoulder.

The Brewers also failed to offer deals to first baseman Rowdy Tellez and right-hander J.C. Mejía. Earlier in the day, the Brewers acquired first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers from the New York Yankees to for minor league outfielders Jace Avina and Brian Sánchez.

Woodruff, 30, made $10.8 million this year and was under team control for one more season had the Brewers offered a contract. The Brewers have said Woodruff is expected to miss most of the 2024 season and might not pitch at all next year after surgery last month to repair the anterior capsule in his throwing shoulder.

The Brewers faced a dilemma with Woodruff due to his injury and the fact was under team control for only one more year. The Brewers’ choices essentially were to trade Woodruff, sign him to a multi-year deal, tender him a one-year offer knowing he might not pitch at all next year or simply to non-tender him and make him a free agent.

“He’s been awesome for us in so many ways," Brewers president of baseball operations Matt Arnold said. “I still think there’s a chance he could be part of our team in the future, but yeah, it’s certainly a tough day anytime you have to deliver news to somebody that means that much to you and your franchise.”

Woodruff missed four months of the 2023 season with a subscapular strain in his shoulder, but he was one of the best pitchers in baseball when healthy. He posted a 5-1 record with a 2.28 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 67 innings.

On the day before the start of the NL Wild Card Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Brewers announced Woodruff had hurt the shoulder again and wouldn’t be available. Woodruff eventually underwent surgery to repair the anterior capsule in his throwing shoulder.

Woodruff has gone 46-26 with a 3.10 ERA and two All-Star Game appearances in seven seasons with the Brewers. He has the best ERA and has allowed the lowest combined hits and walks per innings pitched (1.0455) among any pitcher in franchise history who has worked at least 600 innings for the Brewers.

His 788 strikeouts rank him seventh in team history.

Mejía, 27, was suspended 162 games by Major League Baseball in September after his second positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing drug.

Tellez, 28, hit 35 homers in 2022 but hit .215 with just 13 homers and 47 RBIs this season while making $4.95 million. He hit just one homer off May 22 and was left off the Brewers’ postseason roster.

“He's had some incredible moments here, certainly,” Arnold said of Tellez. “Another guy that's meant a lot to our fans to our team. Again, I think it's just as the season unfolded, he just wasn't able to post because of the injuries. Again, we would certainly keep the door open for Rowdy in the future as well.”

The decision to non-tender Tellez leaves the Brewers with a hole at first base since Carlos Santana, who came to Milwaukee at the trade deadline, is now a free agent. Bauers could help in that regard.

The 28-year-old Bauers hit .202 with 12 homers and 30 RBIs in 84 games and 272 plate appearances this year for the Yankees. He was called up April 29 when Aaron Judge strained a hip and got extensive playing time because of injuries to New York regulars.

A veteran of four major league seasons, Bauers has a .211 average, 309 homers and 140 RBIs in 412 games for Tampa Bay (2018), Cleveland (2019, 2021), Seattle (2021) and the Yankees.

“That was a guy that we had targeted as a left-handed bat with power," Arnold said. "I think he had 23 home runs between Triple-A and the big leagues last year. He's athletic and he's really developed I think over the last 12 to 18 months, and he's changed some things in his swing that we're excited about.”

Bauers is eligible for salary arbitration and likely to get a salary of $1.5 million to $1.75 million.

Avina, 20, hit .233 with 14 homers, 50 RBIs and 10 steals in 99 games this year for Class A Carolina. He was a 14th-round draft pick by the Brewers in 2021.

Sánchez, 19, batted .297 with seven doubles, four triples and no homers in 33 games with the Dominican Summer League Brewers this year.