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Woodruff staying with Brewers on backloaded 2-year deal worth $17.5 million

FILE - Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff delivers during the first inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Sept. 5, 2023. Brandon Woodruff is staying with the Milwaukee Brewers after all. The right-hander has finalized a backloaded $17.5 million, two-year contract with Milwaukee that includes a mutual option for the 2026 season, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)

PHOENIX (AP) — Brandon Woodruff is staying with the Milwaukee Brewers after all.

The right-hander has finalized a backloaded $17.5 million, two-year contract with Milwaukee that includes a mutual option for the 2026 season. The deal was completed three months after the Brewers allowed the injured pitcher to test free agency rather than tendering him a contract for 2024.

“I’ve still got a lot of, I guess you could say unfinished business in a Brewers uniform,” Woodruff said Wednesday in a Zoom session with reporters. “That’s the way I feel about it. That’s why I’m so super excited because for a second, I thought that was the end of it.”

Milwaukee also announced the signing of catcher Gary Sánchez on Wednesday to a one-year contract with a mutual option for 2025. Sánchez hit 19 homers last season while playing for the San Diego Padres and New York Mets.

The 31-year-old Woodruff is expected to miss most, if not all, of the upcoming season while he recovers from shoulder surgery. But the new contract could keep the two-time All-Star with the Brewers when he returns to the mound, whether that’s this year or next year.

“Back in November when we non-tendered Brandon, we said we had to make a very difficult decision relating to one of the best pitchers and human beings in franchise history,” Brewers President of Baseball Operations Matt Arnold said Wednesday in a statement. “We also said we remained very open to his return to Milwaukee. Today, I am thrilled to say that Brandon has returned to the Brewers family. We look forward to guiding Brandon through his rehabilitation and ultimate return to the mound at American Family Field.”

Woodruff will receive $2.5 million this year and $5 million in 2025. The deal includes a $20 million mutual option for 2026 with a $10 million buyout, half payable on Jan. 15, 2026, and the remainder on July 15, 2026. The contract also grants Woodruff a full no-trade provision and a hotel suite on road trips.

When the Brewers made the decision to non-tender him, Woodruff was eligible for arbitration and would have been under team control for one more year. He had surgery in October.

Regarding his possible availability for the upcoming season, Woodruff said he was going to follow the orders of Texas Rangers team doctor Keith Meister, who performed the surgery.

“I’ll take it day to day, week to week, month to month, see where I’m at, at the end of the year,” Woodruff said. “If it makes sense, maybe. If not, I’ll be ready to go for ’25.”

The Brewers believe Woodruff’s veteran leadership and clubhouse presence can provide a boost even if he’s unable to pitch this season.

“I’m going to be a big cheerleader this year,” Woodruff said. “I look forward to that. I think it’s one thing that will help me grow mentally. And I can get to a spot physically like how I want to throughout this year. I just think being available for guys is going to be a big thing, and just trying to help out any way I can.”

Woodruff went 5-1 with a 2.28 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 67 innings last season despite missing four months with inflammation in his right shoulder. On the day before Game 1 of their NL Wild Card Series with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Brewers announced Woodruff had hurt his shoulder again.

The injury prevented Woodruff from pitching in the Brewers’ 2-0 series loss to the eventual NL champion Diamondbacks.

Woodruff is 46-26 with a 3.10 ERA in seven seasons with Milwaukee.

Sánchez, 31, batted .217 with a .288 on-base percentage, .492 slugging percentage and 47 RBIs in a combined 75 games for the Padres and Mets last season. He played three games for the Mets and 72 games for the Padres.

He owns a .225 career batting average with a .309 on-base percentage, 173 homers and 448 RBIs in 741 regular-season games, also playing for the New York Yankees (2015-21) and Minnesota Twins (2022).

The NL Central champion Brewers already have William Contreras returning at catcher after he batted .289 with 17 homers and 78 RBIs last season.

Milwaukee lost its backup catcher when Victor Caratini signed with the Houston Astros, though the Brewers have since signed Eric Haase to a major league deal and Austin Nola to a minor league deal.

“Gary Sánchez brings an experienced right-handed power bat to our lineup,” Arnold said. “He will be a great complement behind the plate to William Contreras and also a valuable asset in the designated-hitter role.”

To make room on the roster, the Brewers designated infielder Jahmai Jones for assignment.

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