Ryan Braun and Lorenzo Cain stood off the side.
Photos and social media videos surfaced of the 2011 MVP and 2019 Gold Glove Award winners smiling, laughing and grinning from ear to ear. Just a few feet away from them, Christian Yelich sat at a press conference table between Milwaukee Brewers’ general manager David Stearns and team owner Mark Attanasio.
The proud veterans watched as Yelich, the 2018 National League’s Most Valuable Player, officially announced a nine-year contract extension. Keeping him on the team through at least the 2027 season.
No opt outs. No trade clauses. Yelich is in Milwaukee for the long haul, possibly the remainder of his professional career.
“I could not be happier that I am a Milwaukee Brewer for the next decade,” he said in a statement released by the team. “I want to thank the Brewers organization, my teammates, and the best fans in baseball for their support. I am excited to be staying in Milwaukee and playing the game that I love for this amazing city.”
The deal is worth a reported $215 million. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, a portion of that salary is being deferred to 2029, offering the team financial flexibility to field a competitive and contending roster.
Christian Yelich will have $28 million deferred in contract-$4 million per year beginning in 2022, and paid back beginning in 2029
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) March 6, 2020
“I’m really glad that I am able to spend the foreseeable future here. The rest of my career as a Milwaukee Brewer.” Yelich said to begin his press conference. “I’ve said many times that I’ve only been here for two years but it feels like a lot longer. Ever since I came here it just felt like a natural fit.
“A place that was great for myself and my family. Formed a connection with the community and my teammates and everyone from ownership to the front office and on down. As a player, that’s what you want, you want a chance to win. Something that feels organic and it felt right to me.”
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel spoke with Yelich’s agent, Joe Longo, about the contract.
“This is how you win a championship,” he said. “You’ve got to get a star player under contract. They knew what they had and they committed to him. I think both sides didn’t want to deal with the noise about what Christian is going to do over the next 36 months.”
At 28 years old, Yelich has already notched an MVP Award, Gold Glove and NLCS appearance to his resume. Today’s contract signing, for him, was a culmination of those accolades, but also a celebration for everyone who helped him get to this point.
“There’s a lot of people that go in to today,” he said after thanking his mom, brothers, teammates and coaches. “It’s definitely not just myself. It has been a collective effort throughout my life. There have been a lot of great people and I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be here without their contributions and their efforts.
“That’s what makes today special, too. There have been a lot of people that have made my life a priority over theirs at times, and it’s just a cool day.”
Communication regarding this contract began in 2019, on Halloween, when Yelich and Attanasio sat down for lunch.
“Christian had indicated to me that he’d might like to talk about an arrangement that would allow him to retire as a Brewer,” Attanasio recalled. “We got together for lunch on Halloween, I guess it was trick-or-treat and it turned out to be a treat.”
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) March 6, 2020
“It’s an amazing fan base and it’s a great place to play,” Yelich reiterated. “I didn’t really know a lot about it before I was a member of the organization. Came once a year for three or four days and that was really it.
“It’s been a great experience since day one. Somewhere that felt natural. Somewhere that I have really enjoyed being and I am excited to spend a lot more time here.”
Braun is a teammate who Yelich talked to about his decision. Which wasn’t anything out of the usual, the two work through professional matters on a consistent basis.
“His career has taken a similar trajectory as mine,” he said about Braun’s mentorship. “As far as contracts and everything that has really happened. He was a big part of this and gave me great advice. We’ve talked a lot, not only about this but baseball in general. He spent his entire career as a Brewers and he has done amazing things for this organization. So I definitely bounce things off of him. We have a great relationship.
“I’m definitely grateful that he has embraced me as he has. Since my first day in this organization.”
Yelich turned to thank Braun, and Cain, for their mentorship.
Until Yelich signed his deal with Milwaukee, Braun’s five-year, $105 million contract was the richest in team history. Not far behind is Cain’s five-year agreement worth $80 million.
“The desires of both parties here were to keep Christian a Brewer for as long as we could,” Stearns added on the process of getting the deal completed. “That was Christian’s desire at the beginning. That was the team’s perspective at the beginning.
“It works for both sides.”