12:50pm: The Brewers and Wong have agreed to terms on a contract, MLB.com’s Jon Morosi
12:45pm: The Brewers are in discussions with free-agent second baseman Kolten Wong about a potential deal, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter link), though he adds that it’s not clear whether the negotiations will actually result in an agreement just yet.
Wong, 30, is no stranger to the Brewers after an eight-year run with the division-rival Cardinals — mostly spent as their everyday second baseman. He hit the open market earlier this winter after the Cards declined a $12.5MM club option in favor of a $1.5MM buyout — a decision that surprised many of their fans. Wong had an up-and-down tenure with the Cardinals early in his career, but he’s been a mainstay in the lineup since late in the 2016 season.
Over the past four seasons, Wong has settled in as a roughly league-average offensive performer, with much of his offensive value coming through a keen eye at the plate. He’s a .273/.356/.398 hitter in that time and has added some value on the bases as well, swiping 43 baas in 56 tries (77 percent).
Where Wong truly shines, of course, is with the glove. He’s established himself as the game’s premier defender at his position, securing Gold Glove wins in each of the past two seasons and standing out as the runaway leader at second base in Defensive Runs Saved in recent years. In fact, over the past three years, Wong’s 41 Defensive Runs Saved are the fourth-most for any player at any position in all of Major League Baseball. Ultimate Zone Rating and Outs Above Average are similarly bullish on his glovework in that time.
With the Brewers, Wong would surely slot in as the everyday option at second base due to that defensive wizardry. That would displace Keston Hiura as the everyday option at the keystone, although there are questions about his defense anyhow (-13 DRS in 1085 career innings).
Signing Wong could push Hiura to another position; there’s been talk of getting him some work at first base in the past, and the Brewers don’t have a set option there beyond journeyman Daniel Vogelbach. The Crew had to be pleased with how Vogelbach hit for them in a small sample of 2020 at-bats, but he was also designated for assignment by a pair of clubs prior to landing in Milwaukee, so his grasp on the job isn’t exactly strong.
From a payroll vantage point, Wong should be plenty plausible. Milwaukee currently projects to carry about an $85MM payroll right now, per Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez, which is south of the $97MM they’d have opened with in 2020 (prior to prorating) and nearly $50MM shy of their 2018 payroll levels. With Jurickson Profar, Enrique Hernandez and Tommy La Stella all commanding $6.5MMM to $7MM annually on multi-year deals, one would imagine Wong is hoping to top that AAV on a multi-year agreement of his own.