HomeMLB RumorsBrewers Non-Tender Brandon Woodruff - MLB Trade Rumors

Brewers Non-Tender Brandon Woodruff – MLB Trade Rumors

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The Brewers are non-tendering starter Brandon Woodruff, as first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today (X link). Woodruff underwent shoulder surgery in October and is expected to miss the majority of the 2024 season.

The injury put Milwaukee in a bind, as Woodruff was also entering his final season of club control. Given his excellent track record and prior salaries, he’d been projected for a hearty $11.6MM salary in arbitration, per MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz. There was no real way for Milwaukee to lower this past season’s $10.8MM salary by any meaningful amount; arbitration salaries can be cut by a maximum of 40%, and the Brewers surely would’ve had to go to an arbitration hearing if they sought such a reduction. Even if they’d won that, Woodruff would’ve been set to earn just shy of $6.5MM in a season where he isn’t expected to pitch much — if at all.

The Brewers discussed multi-year arrangements with Woodruff and trades with other clubs, but neither set of negotiations manifested in a deal. With tonight’s non-tender deadline looming, the Brewers bit the bullet and made what GM Matt Arnold described in a statement as one of the most difficult decisions of his career. Said Arnold:

“Today we had to make a very difficult decision relating to one of the best pitchers and human beings in franchise history. Throughout his 10 seasons in the organization, Brandon Woodruff has represented the Brewers with class, kindness, heart and toughness. He is recognized as a tremendous teammate, both on the field and in the community, where he and his wife, Jonie, have positively impacted so many lives around them. We remain very open to his return to Milwaukee, and regardless of what uniform he wears next, Woody will always be a member of the Brewers family.”

That the Brewers remain open to some kind of reunion is a key takeaway from Arnold’s comments, though obviously Woodruff will now be able to freely negotiate with all 29 other teams. And while the possibility of a year-long absence from the mound looms large, the 30-year-old righty’s track record will surely draw substantial interest — likely on two-year contracts that allow him to rehab with a team for the first season before hopefully enjoying a full and healthy season in year two.

Since establishing himself on the Brewers’ roster in 2018, Woodruff and teammate Corbin Burnes have formed a dominant one-two punch atop the Milwaukee rotation. The 6’4″, 240-pound righty has pitched to a combined 2.98 ERA over 637 1/3 innings in that time, striking out 29.7% of his opponents against a 6.4% walk rate. He’s posted a slightly below-average ground-ball rate (42.4%) and kept the ball in the yard rather well, particularly considering his homer-friendly home environs (0.99 HR/9). Woodruff has generated swinging strikes at a big 12.7% clip and induced chases on pitches off the plate at a hearty 33.2% rate. Simply put, he’s been one of the best and most underrated starters in the National League — at least on a per-inning basis.

If there’s a knock on Woodruff, it’s been his durability (or lack thereof). He’s never topped 179 1/3 innings in a season, has only made 30 starts on one occasion and has averaged just 22 starts per year over his past four 162-game seasons. (Notably, he did start a league-leading 13 games during the Covid-shortened 2020 campaign.)

That said, this is the first year of his big league career in which Woodruff has had a major arm injury. His most prominent other absences were due to oblique and ankle injuries. That didn’t make up for the lost time necessarily, but it paints a more favorable long-term outlook than would be the case had a series of shoulder and elbow troubles kept him off the field in recent years and culminated in this recent procedure.

Now that he’s a free agent, Woodruff becomes one of the most intriguing arms on the market — not necessarily for the 2024 season but from a longer-term perspective. Any team would surely be thrilled to stash Woodruff on the injured list in hopes of a late-2024 return and a close-to-full workload in 2025. His presence on the market gives clubs the rare opportunity to sign a top-of-the-rotation arm at a relatively bargain rate, though any deal for Woodruff will surely afford him the opportunity to return to free agency sooner than later — likely by the 2025-26 offseason.

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