MILWAUKEE (AP)After hitting a career-low .134 for Milwaukee in 2018, Eric Sogard is getting a second chance with the Brewers.
”I’m not afraid to admit that I had some issues going on off the field that kind of took my mind away from the field,” Sogard said Friday after Milwaukee finalized his $4.5 million, one-year contract along with a $5 million, one-year deal for first baseman Justin Smoak.
Sogard split last season between Toronto and Tampa Bay, which acquired him in late July. He was teammates on the Blue Jays with Smoak, who spent the past five seasons in Toronto.
He did not detail his off-field issues from last year but said they had cleared by the time he reported to spring training with Blue Jays. He hit .300 with a career-high 10 homers and 30 RBIs in 323 plate appearances for Toronto, then batted .266 with three homers and 10 RBIs in 119 plate appearances for Tampa Bay.
Sogard’s deal includes a $4 million salary next season and gives Milwaukee a $4.5 million option for 2021 with a $500,000 buyout. The buyout could increase by up to $1 million based on plate appearances next year: $250,000 each for 400 and 450.
After missing the 2016 season with a shoulder injury, Sogard signed a minor league deal with Milwaukee in 2017, forced his way into the starting lineup and batted .273 with three homers and 18 RBIs in 299 plate appearances.
”I knew it was going to take a lot of work to get back to where I was,” Sogard said. ”I worked hard mentally and physically, I was able to get an opportunity early on in Toronto and just kind of ran away with it.”
He plays second, shortstop and third, and manager Craig Counsell figures to give Sogard his most action at third following the departure of Mike Moustakas as a free agent to Cincinnati.
”His positional versatility allows Craig to mix and match,” Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said. ”It’s going to allow us to put guys in different places to hopefully be successful over the course of the season depending on what our needs are.”
Milwaukee has just 12 players left from the 25 on its NL wild card game roster against Washington. The Brewers have added six players this month, also agreeing to contracts with left-hander Brett Anderson, right-hander Josh Lindblom, outfielder Avisail Garcia and third baseman Ryon Healy.
Smoak, who also is 33, gets a $4 million salary next year, and the Brewers have a $5.5 million option for 2021 with a $1 million buyout.
He had 22 home runs and 61 RBIs last season but hit just .202 and played in only 121 games because of a left leg injury.
”I got the left quad and it was there for a while,” he said. ”But I’m in a place now to change that and, hopefully, I can continue that and stay healthy for a full season.”
Smoak replaces Eric Thames as Milwaukee’s primary first baseman, though the Brewers also plan to use Ryan Braun there, too.
”We think between the two we’re going to have a really good first-base situation with a lot of production,” Stearns said.
Smoak hit .237 with 117 homers and 321 RBIs in five seasons with the Blue Jays, earning his only All-Star selection in 2017.
”There are hardly words to describe what a unique experience it has been to play for a country, this city and this team,” he said in a statement. ”Canada will always feel like a second home.”
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