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Wong, Brewers finalize $18M, two-year deal

By STEVE MEGARGEE

The Associated Press

MILWAUKEE — Kolten Wong is leaving St. Louis behind but staying in the NL Central as the Milwaukee Brewers reshape the right side of their infield by adding a Gold Glove second baseman.

Wong and the Brewers finalized their $18 million, two-year contract on Friday, a deal that includes a 2023 club option.

Milwaukee is making room for Wong in their infield by shifting Keston Hiura from second base to first base.

St. Louis had declined a $12.5 million 2021 option for Wong in December, making him eligible for free agency.

“It took me a little bit to kind of get my head around the whole thing,” the former University of Hawaii standout from Hilo said. “Obviously being a Cardinal for as long as I’ve been, there’s a lot of memories, there’s a lot of good things I created there. But also seeing from across (the field) how the Brewers play, how they go about their business and the type of team this is, it just fits my mold really well. It’s a grinding team, a team that just goes out there and competes every single day.”

Wong has earned Gold Glove honors each of the last two seasons. Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns called Wong “in our opinion, the best defensive second baseman in all of baseball.”

The 30-year-old owns a career .261 batting average with a .333 on-base percentage. Wong batted .265 with a .350 on-base percentage, one homer and 16 RBIs in 53 games last season.

He has traditionally hit well in Milwaukee. Wong’s career statistics at American Family Field, formerly known as Miller Park, include a .308 batting average, .373 on-base percentage and .482 slugging percentage in 57 games.

“That was kind of a big reason for me coming to Milwaukee,” Wong said. “I just knew that that was a field where I really saw the ball well at. I felt comfortable playing there. I have a lot of confidence playing in that field.”

Wong said he was somewhat surprised the Brewers showed interest in him because they already had the 24-year-old Hiura, who batted just .212 last season but hit .303 and posted a .938 OPS as a rookie in 2019.

But the Brewers believe Hiura can thrive at first base.

“He’s going to have exceptional range for a first baseman,” Stearns said. “And look, there are finer points of the position that will take time to adjust. We understand that there are going to be mistakes. That’s OK. But Keston is going to grow through it, and ultimately we’re very confident that he’s going to be able to figure it out.”