Reports emerged before the holidays that the Milwaukee Brewers had agreed to a one-year deal with Cory Spangenberg following his non-tender from San Diego. Now that we are through that season and into the new year, Spangenberg has had the opportunity to complete and pass his physical exam, and earlier today the club officially announced the signing.
Though Spangenberg does give the club another internal option at second base, comments from David Stearns via the Journal Sentinel indicate that the signing is due in part to a bit of dreaming on the player’s upside. The general manager praised Cory’s versatility, suggesting that in addition to seeing action at his regular positions of second base and third base, that he’ll also see action in the outfield and even at shortstop during Spring Training.
“He has experience at second and third but we believe he has growth elsewhere. We believe he has the ability to play some shortstop and that’s something we’ll take a look at in Spring Training. We believe he has the ability to play the outfield … We do think, with his athleticism and baseball acumen, this is a player who has the potential to turn into a super utility player.”
Spangenberg has already made 45 outfield appearances as a big leaguer, but shortstop would be a more foreign position to him. He did play one full game there as a AA player in 2015 (recording two assists without an error), and has spent only two innings at short in the majors. But Slingin’ Stearns and company believe that Spangenberg’s athleticism will help him acclimate to the new positions, and despite his modest career offensive output, they think there is room for Cory to grow in the power department.
“He is a very athletic player, a player with potentially some untapped power in there. We’re excited to get him into the organization.”
To this point in his career, Spangenberg has hit .258/.318/.391 with 27 home runs and 31 steals in 1,278 plate appearances, resulting in a 94 wRC+ but less impressive 78 DRC+. He swings and misses an awful lot and walks at roughly a league average rate, and though he did pop 13 homers in 129 games in 2017, he hasn’t displayed much extra-base power as evidenced by his career .133 ISO. But Spangenberg’s numbers certainly haven’t benefited from playing his home games in the heavy air of Petco Park for the last five years, and he and his left-handed bat could be a candidate to attempt to join the fly-ball revolution next season at Miller Park.
278 batters made at least 300 trips to the plate in 2018; among those, Spangenberg’s 24.9% fly ball rate ranked as the 16th-lowest. We’ve already seen plenty of examples as to just how much Milwaukee’s home ballpark can benefit left-handed hitters, and the front office undoubtedly already has some ideas for how Spangenberg can work with new, analytically-minded hitting coach Andy Haines to leverage his career-high hard contact rate in 2018 into more balls into the air – and over the fence – in 2019.
Spangenberg has a minor league option remaining, and will earn $1.2 mil in the majors and $250K in the minors next season. His inexpensive split contract won’t keep the Brewers from continuing to explore the market for addition reinforcements at second base:
“There’s plenty of offseason left. We continue to be engaged in a variety of different concepts. If the right deal is to be had, either via free agency or trades, to bring in another second base option, we have to be open to that. We’ll see how the next two months go.”
Thus far this winter, the Brewers have been linked to the likes of Brian Dozier, Josh Harrison, Jed Lowrie, and the already-signed Troy Tulowitzki, Daniel Murphy, and Ian Kinsler. Several players additional players remain available in free agency even beyond those options, such as Asdrubal Cabrera, Derek Dietrich, Logan Forsythe, DJ LeMahieu, and Wilmer Flores.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus