Should the Brewers Deal Willy Adames Now or at the Deadline?

Willy Adames is drawing interest on the trade market, so when would be the best time for the Brewers to trade their star shortstop?

Willy Adames
MILWAUKEE, WISCONSIN - JULY 11: Willy Adames #27 of the Milwaukee Brewers waits for a replay on a call at second base against the Cincinnati Reds at American Family Field on July 11, 2021 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Reds defeated the Brewers 3-1. (Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images)

This offseason has already been a roller coaster for the Milwaukee Brewers, as it has featured its share of ups along with a handful of downs for the fanbase.

The high point thus far was the signing of Jackson Chourio, one of baseball’s most exciting prospects, to a monster eight-year contract before he has even seen a pitch in the major leagues.

The lows involved the shocking departure of Craig Counsell, the winningest manager in franchise history, and the non-tender of long-time beloved co-ace Brandon Woodruff.

However, the Brewers aren’t out of the rumor mill quite yet. In fact, they could be at the heart of many more trade discussions for weeks to come.

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Corbin Burnes has been a popular name to surface in offseason trade rumors, and for good reason. He is set to hit free agency following the 2024 season, and he is in line to secure a monster multi-year contract next winter. While Burnes will continue to be one of the top names to monitor as we inch closer to Opening Day, he isn’t the Brewers’ only hot commodity this winter.

Shortstop Willy Adames could find a new home in the coming weeks as well. For the past couple of seasons, Adames has been one of the best power-hitting shortstops in baseball while also bringing elite defense to the position. Couple his impressive play with the lack of star talent on the free agent market, and Adames should draw major trade interest from several contending ball clubs in the coming weeks.

Why Would the Brewers Trade Adames?

Overall, there are several reasons why an Adames trade would make sense from a Brewers perspective. Adames is entering his final year of arbitration, and his projected salary for 2024 is $12.4 million, according to MLB Trade Rumors.

While that would still be a reasonable number to pay for a player of Adames’ caliber, the Brewers tend to focus on cost-saving and maximizing player value. An Adames trade would certainly help clear some salary heading into next season, which would allow for more roster and financial flexibility for 2024 and beyond.

Additionally, Adames has voiced his desire to earn a lucrative multi-year contract when he hits free agency next offseason – especially following the shortstop spending frenzy that occurred last winter.

One offseason ago, the top four shortstops on the free agent market earned nearly $1 billion in total salary: Trea Turner signed an 11-year, $300 million contract with the Philadelphia Phillies, Xander Bogaerts signed an 11-year, $280 million contract with the San Diego Padres, Carlos Correa signed a six-year, $200 million contract with the Minnesota Twins, and Dansby Swanson signed a seven-year, $177 million contract with the Chicago Cubs.

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Those enormous contracts reset the market for baseball’s top shortstops. Now, Adames might not be in the same tier as some of the names listed above, but he’s going to want to be paid like the best shortstop on the market. This means there’s a good chance the Brewers won’t be able to match his price point in order to keep him in Milwaukee long-term.

An Adames trade feels inevitable, but when the trade will occur is the interesting piece of the puzzle. There are several factors that could impact the Brewers’ decision to move on from their star shortstop.

Why the Brewers Should Trade Adames This Winter

The Brewers have an opportunity to maximize Adames’ trade value this offseason. He easily stands atop an uninspiring list of available shortstops, and Milwaukee could take advantage of the weak market to bring in a significant return.

Here’s how his numbers from the 2023 season stack up against some of the top available free agent shortstops:

Willy Adames (638 PA).217.310.407.717.311.190943.4
Tim Anderson (524 PA).
Amed Rosario (545 PA).263.305.378.683.297.116880.2
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (361 PA).242.306.340.646.286.098820.2
Elvis Andrus (406 PA).251.304.358.662.290.107811.1
Brandon Crawford (320 PA).194.273.314.587.260.120630.4
Adalberto Mondesi (54 PA).
Stats via FanGraphs

For contenders looking to upgrade their shortstop position, there would be no better option than Adames. The 2023 season was one of Adames’ worst in terms of contact hitting, but his power-hitting prowess still allowed him to be an impactful bat in the middle of Milwaukee’s lineup.

He ended the year with 24 homers and an isolated power of .190, which were both third-best among qualified National League shortstops. Since 2021, among qualified MLB shortstops over that stretch, Adames ranks second in home runs (80), third in isolated power (.210), and ninth in slugging percentage (.448).

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Adames’ persistent shortcoming has been his high strikeout numbers. Through his six MLB seasons, he has a career strikeout rate of 27.7%, and his 30.1% career whiff rate is significantly higher than league average.

But despite his swing-and-miss susceptibility, Adames’s potential in the lineup is undeniable when he is comfortable at the plate. Not to mention, he displays some of the best range and arm strength in baseball, and he does it at a premier defensive position.

Point being, there will be a market for Adames if the Brewers wish to trade him, and now would be the time to maximize that return. Considering his soon-to-come free agency and lofty financial goals, he likely isn’t in the Brewers’ long-term plans. Yet, given the bleak free agent market and his impressive performance on the field, he would bring in a significant prospect package that would bolster Milwaukee’s already strong farm system.

However, while he is one of the top names on the market, there are only a handful of suitors that would make sense as a trade destination. The San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, Miami Marlins, Atlanta Braves, and Toronto Blue Jays could all be strong fits for Adames. These are teams who are looking to compete in 2024 but could also use either an upgrade at shortstop or another impact bat.

That being said, there’s a good chance the aforementioned teams won’t want to part ways with some of their top prospects for a one-year stopgap at shortstop (that is assuming Adames wishes to hit the open market next offseason and doesn’t sign an extension with his new club).

If the Brewers don’t receive any offers that pique their interest, they could very well hold onto Adames and play out the beginning of the 2024 season with him at shortstop. He’s clearly a valuable asset to the organization, and he can help the Brewers win in 2024 if that is the club’s desire.

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Why the Brewers Should Trade Adames at the Deadline

If the Brewers are going to defend their division crown next season, they will need Adames in their lineup. While the 2023 season was his worst in a Brewers uniform, he still led the ball club in home runs and RBIs and had the third-highest fWAR among position players on the team (3.4). For a club that has struggled on offense for the past handful of seasons, subtracting their most valuable run producer would be illogical if they wish to compete.

Holding onto Adames allows the Brewers to see how the first half of the 2024 season goes before making a decision about his future. If they are near the top of the standings, they can hold onto Adames and make one last playoff push with their current core – and they can extend him a qualifying offer at the end of the season to potentially get draft pick compensation.

However, if they have a slow start in 2024 and appear to be out of contention after the first few months of the season, they still have an opportunity to flip him for an impactful prospect package at the deadline. While they won’t get as big of a return if they wait to move him, the Brewers still have an opportunity to trade him as potentially one of the top bats on the market next summer.

There is always demand for a talented shortstop who plays elite defense and can slide into the middle of a team’s lineup as an impactful power bat. On top of his impressive offensive and defensive abilities, Adames brings a tremendous boost of morale to any clubhouse, and that holds value in and of itself.

Final Thoughts

The Brewers need to commit to a direction for the 2024 season. On one hand, Matt Arnold and the front office claim they’re working to build a competitive roster. They’ve pushed back on the idea of a rebuild, and it appears they’re still looking to make one final run with their core players in 2024.

On the flip side, Milwaukee has already made several salary dump-type moves this offseason, including the trade of Mark Canha, the trade of Tyrone Taylor and Adrian Houser, and the non-tender of Brandon Woodruff. Combine these decisions with the lack of extension talks with some of their most important players, and it feels as if a soft rebuild is inevitable.

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Perhaps they’re clearing salary to make room for a big acquisition or to sign one of their marquee players to a long-term deal. However, at this point, given Milwaukee’s recent spending history, that feels very unlikely.

The Brewers have an opportunity to bolster their already strong farm system this offseason by trading one of their most valuable assets in Willy Adames. From a business standpoint, it makes all the sense to trade him and get the most they can for him now and continue to strengthen their farm system. It wouldn’t be an easy decision to make, but it would make the most sense for the future of their team given the current state of the organization.

Adames is the heart and soul of the Brewers’ clubhouse. He has an infectious personality, and he is a beloved teammate and fan favorite in Milwaukee. If the Brewers do end up moving on from their slugging shortstop, not only will his run production be difficult to replicate, but his presence in the clubhouse will be nearly impossible to replace.