April 21, 2024

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Devin Williams will be out for approximately three months due to back fractures

Devin Williams will be out for approximately three months due to back fractures

Brewers star closer Devin Williams He was diagnosed with two fractures in his back, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan (X link). It will be completely shut down for six weeks and is expected to remain out of MLB games for approximately three months.

It's a huge blow for Milwaukee two weeks before Opening Day. Williams made two appearances this spring before pausing his work while dealing with back soreness. He visited a spine specialist this afternoon. This examination revealed fractures. Fortunately, Passan noted that Williams is expected to make a full recovery.

That the injury hasn't affected Williams his entire career is a positive, but there's no doubt it's a big miss for the first half of next season. The two-time All-Star is among the best players in baseball. He has pitched to a sub-2.00 ERA in back-to-back years, including a sparkling 1.53 mark over 58 2/3 frames last season. Williams closed out 36 games on 40 attempts in his first full season as a closer. He rode his patented waffle ball change, called the Airbender, to a whopping 37.7% strikeout percentage. Williams was named the National League's top reliever for the second time in his career.

As is the case with almost every player in Milwaukee approaching free agency, Williams found himself in the middle of trade rumors during the offseason. Those speculations came back after they dealt Corbin Burns To the Orioles, but Milwaukee couldn't find a deal that satisfied them. They chose to keep him at the back of the bullpen instead. Williams should eventually return to the ninth inning, but he will now start the season on the 60-day injured list and will be sidelined until at least mid-June.

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It's unclear whether Milwaukee skipper Pat Murphy will take a committee approach in the ninth inning or opt for a specific target while Williams is on the shelf. If they go the last way, that is Joel Payamps, Abner Uribe or Trevor Miguel They could be candidates. Payamps was somewhat quietly one of the most productive relievers in the NL last season. Secondary piece acquired in William Contreras/Sean Murphy Traded between three teams, Payamps turned in a 2.55 ERA with bonus numbers for hits, walks and groundballs across 70 1/3 innings.

Uribe has more traditional closing stuff. He was one of the toughest pitchers in the sport, averaging 99.4 mph on his sinker as a rookie. Uribe pitched to a 1.76 ERA behind a 53% home run and a 30.7% strikeout rate over his first 30 2/3 MLB innings. It's eye-catching stuff, but his command could keep him out of the ninth inning. Uribe walked more than 15% of opponents last season.

Megill, acquired in a minor trade with the Twins last April, has struck out nearly 36% of batters who have faced the brewer. He pitched to a 3.31 ERA through 32 2/3 frames. Miguel averaged 99.1 mph on his heater, which he paired with a sweeping curveball in the mid-80s. Having this trio of power arms means that Murphy still has to have a good relief group to work with, yet there is no one who can expect him to replicate the production that Williams posts on a yearly basis.

Milwaukee has control over Williams via arbitration through the 2025 season. He makes $7 million this season. Milwaukee has a $10 million option for next year but can keep him in arbitration even if they choose to buy out the $250,000 option instead of the option's value. If Williams progresses as expected, he should be back on the mound before the deadline. There is a possibility he could be a mid-season trade candidate if the Brewers unexpectedly fall out of contention in the NL Central, but the offers they receive could be complicated by other teams' fear of injury.

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