By most, if now all accounts, the three-year, $24 million deal that the Milwaukee Brewers signed Carlos Gomez to on the heels of a minor breakout in his age-26 season was a good one for just about everyone involved: Gomez gets his due from a near 20-40 season, the team gets their athletic center fielder locked up in his prime until 2016, and the rate will turn out to be very team-friendly if Gomez continues his power surge at age-27.
Considering that the team now has a 14.3 fWAR outfield (between Ryan Braun, Gomez, and Norichika Aoki) locked up until at least 2016, things are generally looking pretty rosy for Milwaukee in that department these days.
That is, unless your name is Logan Schafer.
The 26-year old prospect, who has been labelled as the best defensive outfielder in the Brewers system (Baseball America) headed into this season, is now staring at a $24 million road block on his way to the bigs.
Obviously, Braun isn’t going anywhere, but prior to Gomez’s big season in 2012 (well, at least the second half where he posted a .809 OPS vs .709 in the first half anyway), there had been the idea that Schafer might eventually be able to come up as a platoon partner for the Brewers center fielder.
Well, Schafer did get his second call-up in September of 2012, but by then, Gomez had been on his 14-homer second half tear, and the prospect found himself making just three starts in center field.
This year, his role with the team won’t change very much. Schafer doesn’t particularly have too much to prove in Triple-A after putting together a .278/.332/.438 triple slash with 11 homers and 16 steals over .513 at-bats in 2012, and he’s done well enough to impress this spring, notching 10 hits in 29 at-bats, including four doubles.
That will likely be good enough for him to make the Brewers’ 25- man roster when Opening Day starts, but he will more than likely do so as a fourth outfielder facing very little playing time.
It’s not ideal, especially considering that Schafer is close to being at his prime age and have no clear opportunities ahead of him through 2016, but he does have a couple of things going for him that may turn his fortunes around.
One, Schafer is a versatile outfielder, and he’s spent time at all three outfield spots before, which gives the Brewers more options as to where he could slot in case an outfielder needs an off-day. Secondly, he’s arguably a better defender than any of his compatriots in Milwaukee, and the power/speed combination he showed in Triple-A could be enough for the team to consider placing in a platoon role if Gomez or Aoki struggles.
As manager Ron Roenicke said to Adam McCalvy of MLB.com, things can “change in a hurry”, and he cited the fact that Aoki was in a similar situation to start 2012, when he was a pinch-hitter. The skipper is confident that “somewhere along the line, [Schafer] will get his chance to play every day.”
Though, to be fair, it’s likely the case that the team would rather things not change to the point where one of their outfielders isn’t working out.
So, unfortunately, his manager’s words aren’t likely to provide much solace to Schafer, who will have a hard time proving himself as an impact player in the bigs in the foreseeable future.