Brewers sign free agent reliever David Phelps to $1.5 million, 1-year deal
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Brewers sign free agent reliever David Phelps to $1.5 million, 1-year deal

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MILWAUKEE — Free agent pitcher David Phelps and the Milwaukee Brewers finalized a one-year contract on Thursday that guarantees $1.5 million and includes a club option for 2021.

The 33-year-old right-hander was 2-1 with one save and a 3.41 ERA in 41 games for Toronto and Cubs last season. The reliever was traded by the Blue Jays to Chicago in late July.

Phelps missed the 2018 season because of Tommy John surgery after injuring his elbow in spring training. He is 32-34 with six saves and a 3.86 ERA in seven seasons with the New York Yankees, Miami, Seattle, Toronto and the Cubs.

"It seemed like this offseason, teams were really focusing on some other parts of their teams, then rounding out the bullpen at the end. Once Milwaukee showed interest, it made sense. I know some guys on the team, the team has been in the playoffs the last two years," he said. "It just seemed like a really good fit."

Phelps said he talked with former Marlins teammate Christian Yelich about joining the Brewers. Yelich was the NL MVP with Milwaukee in 2018 and the outfielder had another big season last year.

"I reached out to him when we were in negotiations, getting a feel for what the clubhouse was like and what it's like playing in Milwaukee. Obviously, he had glowing reports and he's one of those guys who's opinion carries a lot of weight, for sure," Phelps said.

Phelps said he's fine to pitch in any role. Manager Craig Counsell takes a creative approach with his staff, and the bullpen is a big reason the Brewers won the NL Central in 2018 and were a wild-card team last year.

"I know Craig uses guys in a variety of ways. He seems to want to put his arm in a position to have success and that's obviously incredibly attractive to a reliever," he said.

Phelps said he felt fine physically.

"This offseason has been huge because I haven't had a fully healthy offseason in a number of years. From a weight-room standpoint, from my throwing progression, everything is the best it's felt in a long while," he said.

Brewers general manager David Stearns said "we look at David as someone who's not too far removed from being one of the better relievers in this game."

Stearns said lefty Brent Suter, who pitched nine games last year after recovering from Tommy John surgery, would be used as a reliever. Suter was mostly a starter before getting hurt, then went 4-0 with an 0.49 ERA as a reliever when he returned last year.

Phelps gets a $1.25 million salary this year, and Milwaukee's option is for $4.5 million with a $250,000 buyout.

He can earn $1.9 million in each year in bonuses for pitching appearances: $175,000 for 35, $200,000 for 40, $225,000 for 45, $250,000 for 50, $300,000 for 55, $350,000 for 60 and $400,000 for 65.

Milwaukee designated right-hander Deolis Guerra for assignment. The 30-year-old Guerra pitched in one game for the Brewers last season, and previously played for the Pittsburgh and the Angels.


Brewers free agent signings

Signed Brett Anderson, lhp, Oakland, to a $5 million, one-year contract; signed Avisaíl García, of, Tampa Bay, to a $20 million, two-year contract; signed Justin Smoak, 1b, Toronto, to a $5 million, one-year contract; signed Eric Sogard, 2b, Tampa Bay, to a $4.5 million, one-year contract; signed Jedd Gyorko, inf, Los Angeles Dodgers, to a $2 million, one-year contract; signed Logan Morrison, 1b, Philadelphia, to a minor league contract ($1 million); signed David Phelps, rhp, to a $1.5 million, one-year contract.

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