MILWAUKEE — As the deadline approached to exchange salary offers with arbitration-eligible players, the Milwaukee Brewers remained busy Friday, adding veteran infielder Jedd Gyorko on a one-year, $2 million contract that includes a club option for 2021.
Gyorko, 31, battled through back and wrist injuries that limited him to 62 games last season for the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers. He is a .245 career hitter with 112 home runs and 353 RBIs and with a career OPS of .796 against left-handed pitching, and would appear to be a natural fit to platoon at third base with Eric Sogard.
Gyorko also has the positional versatility the Brewers covet. He has played all four infield positions over the course of his career, including 220 starts at third base.
“We think he fits our team really well and will be able to contribute for us this year,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said.
Stearns said he was confident that the various injuries that plagued Gyorko a year ago would not impact him moving forward.
“He’s going through his normal offseason program,” Stearns said. “Naturally, we gave him a pretty extensive physical which he passed so we believe he’ll be healthy and ready to go in spring training.”
To make room for Gyorko on the 40-man roster, the Brewers designated right-handed reliever Jake Faria for assignment.
Faria, 26, came to the Brewers last summer in a deal that sent Jesus Aguilar to the Rays. He appeared in nine games for Milwaukee, allowing 11 earned runs over 8⅔ innings but fared better at Class AAA San Antonio, where he went 1-1 with a 2.35 ERA in six appearances.
“We acquired him for a reason,” Stearns said. “He had a little bit of a rough stretch after we traded for him but we think there’s a good pitcher in there so we’d like to keep him.”
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The Brewers also reached a settlement with catcher Omar Narváez on a one-year contract, avoiding arbitration, but were unable to come to an agreement with left-handers Josh Hader and Brent Suter, making arbitration hearings with the two players likely.
Both are eligible for arbitration a year early after reaching “Super 2” status — afforded to the top 22% of players with between two and three years of MLB service time who spent at least 86 days on the big league roster last season.
Hader, 25, stands to earn a big raise from the $687,000 he made last year while posting a 2.62 ERA with 37 saves and a 16.4 strikeout rate in 61 appearances. Projections from Sportrac and Baseball-Reference suggest Hader, 25, could earn around $4.6 million in 2020.
The Brewers faced a similar situation in 2018 when Corey Knebel, who reached Super 2 status after posting a 1.78 ERA with 39 saves and 126 strikeouts during an All-Star season in 2017, saw his salary jump from $538,000 to $3.65 million.
Suter, who returned from Tommy John surgery late in the season, made $568,300 last season.
The Brewers avoided arbitration by reaching agreements earlier this offseason with shortstop Orlando Arcia ($2.2 million), outfielder Ben Gamel ($1.4 million) and Knebel, who is expected to return from Tommy John surgery in May.
“This is the first time we’ve exchanged filing numbers in a couple of years,” Stearns said “We’ve had a nice run of being able to get to settlements prior to (exchanging offers) but this was a year when we had a couple of players that we just weren’t able to line up.”
Teams and players can continue negotiating until their hearings, which are set to begin Feb. 3, though the Brewers are widely believed to be one of a growing number of teams that opts to proceed to a hearing if a deal can’t be reached before the deadline to exchange figures.
If the two sides can’t reach an agreement before that point, each makes a case before a three-person panel that will choose one offer or the other during hearings.
The Brewers have gone to a hearing just once during general manager David Stearns’ tenure. That came in 2016, when the team won against right-hander Chase Anderson.