Jace Peterson, the Milwaukee Brewers' Swiss Army Knife on the field and a clubhouse leader off it, is moving on after a productive three-year stint with the organization.
The 32-year-old utility man reportedly agreed to a two-year contract with the Oakland A's on Tuesday, becoming the latest veteran to depart the Brewers.
"I did talk to Jace," general Matt Arnold said Tuesday from San Diego during Day 2 of Major League Baseball's winter meetings. "We have a great relationship with Jace. He is as pro of a pro as you can possibly imagine. He meant a ton to our organization. I have thanked him for that profusely because he's earned that."
Peterson originally joined the Brewers in December of 2019 on a minor-league deal and played in a total of 232 games through last season, hitting .238 with 16 home runs and 70 runs batted in to go along with an OPS of .710.
Over that span he played every position but center field and catcher while also developing into a fan favorite whose torrid hot streak at the plate during one stretch in the 2021 season earned him the nickname "On-Base Jace."
Peterson was in the midst of a career year in 2022 when he suffered a partially torn ligament in his left elbow while trying to make a diving stop at third base in mid-July. He missed 29 games then returned at well less than 100% to play the final six weeks, ultimately finishing with a line of .236/8/34/.698 in 112 games.
The eight homers set a career high, and his defense at third base (67 of his 81 starts came there) was among the best on the team.
The Brewers should be well-positioned to replace Peterson on the field; they recently agreed to a $1.4 million deal with right-handed-hitting Mike Brosseau and acquired switch-hitter Abraham Toro in last week's Kolten Wong trade.
Luis Urías is also still under team control and able to play across the infield, as is prospect Brice Turang.
"The reality is, if you look at our infield depth and where we are, it just didn't align with (Peterson) today," Arnold said. "That doesn't mean it couldn't have at some point. But just given where we are today, it wasn't a fit."
The multi-year deal Peterson is receiving from Oakland is the first of a major-league career that began back in 2014. The A's will be the sixth organization for the Louisianan, who also has logged 560 minor-league games over the course of his career.
He made $1.825 million with the Brewers this past season.
"I'm super happy for him and his family to end up in a good situation. He's earned that," said Arnold. "To have been a guy that's had to fight for everything in his entire career, coming in as a non-roster type of guy, it's a really good thing.
"We'll always be pulling for Jace Peterson."
There was a little more movement in the National League Central on Tuesday with the Chicago Cubs signing outfielder Cody Bellinger to a one-year, $17.5 million contract.
There have also been persistent rumors that the St. Louis Cardinals are on the verge of acquiring a big-ticket catcher – perhaps former Cub Willson Contreras – which would be a development of interest to the Brewers as they seek to upgrade at that position as well.
Milwaukee currently has three catchers on its 40-man roster in Victor Caratini, Payton Henry and Mario Feliciano while one of its former incumbents, Omar Narváez, works his way through free agency.
"Look, these guys have an opportunity to explore the market. That's what they've earned," Arnold said. "That opportunity is something I know he's actively exploring. But at the same time we think the world of him. We're actively exploring the catching market, but we'll certainly keep the door open for someone like Omar."
Would the Brewers like to acquire a bona fide No. 1 catcher? Of course.
But such a move would require significant resources in terms of either a sizable contract (Contreras) or a package of prospects (in a trade for Oakland's Sean Murphy, for example), and Milwaukee has shown the inclination to expend either thus far in the offseason.
There's always the chance for an under-the-radar acquisition as well.
"We like Payton Henry. We also like Victor Caratini. But anytime you have the opportunity to upgrade behind the plate – especially with the potential for the loss of Omar – we'll entertain it," Arnold said. "It's a very active market for catching."
The Brewers also learned later Tuesday night they will draft 18th overall in the first round next July. They had a miniscule chance of jumping into the top six teams as MLB held its first-ever draft lottery, but the ping pong balls didn't fall their way and they remained in the spot earned by their 86-76 record.
On Wednesday MLB will hold its Rule 5 draft, which allows teams without a full 40-man roster to select qualifying players not on another team’s 40-man roster. Those players must be kept on the active roster all season unless placed on the injured list.
Last month, the Brewers protected Turang, right-handers Cam Robinson and Abner Uribe and first baseman Jon Singleton by adding them to their 40-man. But there are several other players the team might be in danger of losing.
Milwaukee might also roll the dice on an arm it likes to add to its bullpen mix.
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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Brewers lose another veteran as Jace Peterson reportedly signs with A's