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NL Central Notes: Turner, Wong, Doolittle, Flaherty

The Brewers were known to be one of the teams linked to Justin Turner’s market, and Milwaukee still has interest in Turner even after signing Kolten Wong, FanSided’s Robert Murray tweets.  A deal with Turner may be something of a longshot at this point, as Murray notes that the Dodgers are still considered the favorites for the third baseman, and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal writes that the Brewers are just “on the periphery of the bidding for Turner.”

Still, the Brew Crew might see an opportunity to strike given the overall lack of action by NL Central teams this winter.  Milwaukee has a projected payroll of just under $92MM for the coming season, and signing Turner for something in the ballpark of a $13MM average annual value wouldn’t put the Brewers far beyond the $102MM they were projected to spend last season prior to the prorated salary reductions for the 60-game schedule.  If necessary, president of baseball operations David Stearns could also look to swing some trades to create a bit of extra payroll space either before or during the season.  While some creativity may be required, it isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem that the Brewers could still pry Turner away from more free-spending suitors like the Dodgers or Blue Jays.

More from the NL Central…

  • Speaking of Wong, reports throughout the offseason indicated the Cardinals were ready to move on after declining their $12.5MM club option on his services back in October, and Wong confirmed as much in a recent chat with reporters (including Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch).  The second baseman said the Cardinals “talked here and there” with his representatives “but it wasn’t much, kind of checking in, feeling things out.  We never really engaged.”  By contrast, “the Brewers were on me at the beginning ]of the offseason]….I just felt like a top priority.  They made it feel like home.”  Several teams were linked to Wong throughout the winter but the Brewers ended up landing the two-time Gold Glover for a two-year contract worth $18MM in guaranteed money.
  • Sean Doolittle also spoke with reporters (including Jesse Dougherty of the Washington Post) about his own free agent experience, which concluded when he signed a one-year, $1.5MM deal with the Reds last week.  Cincinnati was in touch with Doolittle early in the free agent process and he ended up choosing them amongst a few suitors, though Doolittle admitted that he held out hope for much of the winter that he would end up re-signing with the Nationals.  There were some negotiations between Doolittle and the Nats but once Washington signed Brad Hand in late January, Doolittle began to pivot to other teams.
  • The arbitration hearing between Jack Flaherty and the Cardinals took place on Friday, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports, so a decision should be coming any time about Flaherty’s 2021 salary.  The right-hander is looking for $3.9MM, while the Cards countered with a $3MM figure.  While this is Flaherty’s first year of arbitration eligibility, Goold observes that this is actually the third straight year of some salary-related contention between the two sides, as the Cardinals renewed Flaherty’s pre-arb contracts in each of the previous two seasons after Flaherty didn’t agree to the team’s figure as a matter of “principle.”  Goold writes that Flaherty and the Cards came within $300K of agreeing to a deal prior to the arbitration deadline and have continued to have talks even leading up to the hearing.  This would seemingly imply that a contract extension was being discussed, since St. Louis otherwise wouldn’t re-open negotiations after the arb deadline due to the team’s “file and trial” strategy for arbitration cases.
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