Kolten Wong can keep the winter coat and the National League Central address, but the second baseman has a new baseball home to flash his Gold Gloves and a pay raise.
Wong agreed to terms on a multiyear deal with the Milwaukee Brewers, a source confirmed to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The new contract is for two years and $18 million, The Athletic reported Wednesday. An option for a third year could add $8 million. The deal is pending a physical and has not been announced by the Brewers.
Former St. Louis teammate Adam Wainwright sent his congratulations to Wong, tweeting: “Going to miss you, buddy, but seems like we might be seeing a lot of each other. @Brewers … you got a good one!”
The Hilo 30-year-old became a free agent when the Cardinals declined his $12.5-million option for the 2021 season, a move the team has described as the “only lever they could pull” for financial flexibility. While both sides said the door was “ajar” for his return, the Cardinals did not actively pursue Wong through the winter — in part because they were trying to complete this week’s trade for third baseman Nolan Arenado.
Wong fielded offers from multiple teams, and teams such as the Angels, the Red Sox and Giants explored interest in him.
The signing presumably allows the Brewers to move second baseman Keston Hiura to first base, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported
Coincidentally, the Cardinals’ opponent for their home opener is the Brewers.
“It will be unusual to see him in another uniform, for sure,” Cardinals manager Mike Shildt told the Post-Dispatch. “He did the work. I wish him all the best and I hope he’s happy with his situation.”
The Cardinals’ first-round pick in 2011 out of the University of Hawaii, Wong debuted in 2013 and by 2018 had established himself as the best defensive second baseman in the National League. It took another year for the Gold Glove Award voters to catch up. Wong won his first Gold Glove award in 2019, and this past season, when the award was based entirely on advanced metrics, he was one of the best fielders in the NL and won a second consecutive Gold Glove.
He was in the running for the Platinum Glove given to the best fielder at any position and won by Arenado, for the fourth consecutive year.
While working with Jose Oquendo and the Cardinals to become an elite infielder, Wong also adjusted at the plate and earned a chance to be the Cardinals’ leadoff hitter in 2020. The past two seasons, Wong hit .279 with a .358 on-base percentage. In 852 games with the Cardinals, he batted .261 with a .333 OBP, .384 slugging percentage, 53 homers and 281 RBI.
“We’ve spent a lot of quality time since 2012 together,” Shildt said. “A lot of fond memories and a lot of respect from us to Kolten in how he’s evolved in his game. But it does speak to the fact that we’re in a business and things can change.”
The Brewers finished 29-31 in fourth place in the NL Central in 2020, and last made the postseason in 2018, when they fell a game short of reaching the World Series.
With any luck, Wong could have two teammates from the Big Island in Milwaukee in the near future. Former Waiakea standout Quintin Torres-Costa is a left-handed reliever for the Brewers’ Triple-A affiliate in San Antonio, and 2018 Hilo High grad Micah Bello spent the 2019 season with the Brewers’ rookie league affiliate in Colorado.
Tribune News Service contributed to this report