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What’s next for Brandon Woodruff?

Following last Friday’s non-tender deadline, teams across the league shook up their rosters further sending an influx of several more free agents into the market. One such team was the Milwaukee Brewers as they made an almost surprising move to non-tender right-handed pitcher Brandon Woodruff.

Woodruff, 30, underwent shoulder surgery in October and is expected to miss the majority, if not all, of 2024 in recovery. He was slated to become a free agent after 2024 anyway and the two sides were unable to reach an extension agreement. In arbitration, he was expected to earn something close to $11 million, which would have been a tough ask for the Brewers to pay a player on the injured with no expectation that he would be able to pitch. Even in the likelihood that they tried to continue to figure something out until going to an arbitration hearing, the odds of a reduction in salary would have just been too much hassle for the Brewers to deal with, leading them to cut Woodruff loose.

In a statement, general manager Matt Arnold said: ”

“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.”

A reunion with the Brewers is entirely within the realm of possibilities for Woodruff, but he now has the luxury to explore the league and ideally obtain a deal that would allow him to pitch in 2025 and perhaps again reach the free agent market healthy. There will be no shortage of suitors for Woodruff’s services as it’s been reported that a majority of teams are interested in him. Woodruff represents a cheaper option on the free agent market for a team with the means to stash him on the injured list for 2024 and take advantage of him in 2025.

Drafted in the 11th round in 2014 by the Brewers, Woodruff eventually rose through the system to make his debut in 2017 before fully establishing himself in 2018. From 2019-2023, Woodruff was a regular mainstay in the Brewers rotation. Over his career, he’s been as sturdy as can be with a 2.98 ERA over 637 1/3 innings while 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%) but has done well limiting the long ball with a 0.99 HR/9 rate. Additionally, his craftiness as a pitcher has resulted in a swinging strike rate of 12.7%  and induced chases at a 33.2% rate.

Across 11 starts in 2023, Woodruff had a 2.28 ERA (3.60 FIP) over 67 innings with 74 strikeouts and 15 walks. When he is on the mound he excels at limiting damage against him and often gives his team the best chance to win ballgames. Unfortunately, one knock against him has been his lack of durability. Over his past four 162-game seasons he has averaged just 22 starts a year and has never pitched more than 180 innings in a season. At times he has been used as an opener or works four to five innings before handing the ball off to the bullpen. However, he has proven an ability when healthy to go deep into ball games, at least six innings, a trait that is useful for any starting pitcher.

He has dealt with minor injuries throughout his career, but this is the first major arm injury he has had to deal with. Shoulder injuries are always tricky to deal with and they can have a much more detrimental effect on a pitcher long-term. Currently, Woodruff averages about 96 mph on his fastball and 85 mph on both his offspeed and breaking pitches. There’s the possibility that he’s going to see decreases to those numbers when he returns and it’s no guarantee he’s ever the same pitcher he was prior to the injury. But, his track record of success should give any team confidence that he can return to form once he is healed and help lead a rotation in 2025.

Teams will have to look two steps ahead when acquiring Woodruff. There will be plenty of contract gymnastics to establish a price for the injured year and include plenty of incentives and opt-outs with length and so on. Woodruff’s market is going to heat up quickly as the dominoes begin to fall in the wake of Aaron Nola’s deal with the Phillies. With so many teams in desperate need of good starting pitching, Woodruff is a gift that won’t be able to be unwrapped until later, but it may be incredibly worthwhile.



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