The Milwaukee Brewers and general manager David Stearns are back at it again. The club is the talk of the off-season right now after trading for Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich and signing former All-Star outfielder Lorenzo Cain as a free agent Thursday night.
Milwaukee still has a crowded outfield, which means that more moves will be likely to come before the start of spring training and players such as Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, and Keon Broxton could be on the move. Despite all of these transactions, though, the Brewers aren’t necessarily going all in with a win-now mentality.
Here are some of the reasons why the Brewers didn’t mortgage their future and are not only going to contend for a playoff spot this season, but for a World Series for the next five years.
Trading for Yelich cost Milwaukee its top prospect in Lewis Brinson and other highly ranked prospects in Isan Diaz (6th), Monte Harrison (14th), and Jordan Yamamoto (21st). Yelich is the player right now that the Brewers had hoped Brinson could become and the one Miami is banking on him becoming.
The 23-year-old Brinson spent some time in the majors last season, but struggled when given the chance to play. At 26 years old, Yelich has been playing in the big leagues for five years, and is coming off a season in which he hit .282 with 18 home runs and 81 RBIs. He did that while hitting at Marlins Park, a much bigger stadium than Milwaukee’s Miller Park.
Milwaukee included 21-year-old Diaz in the deal and was able to do so because of the depth at its middle infield spots. The Brewers currently have Orlando Arcia at shortstop and are hoping for a bounce back season from Jonathan Villar at second base. The Brewers also have their seventh-ranked prospect in Mauricio Dubon, who is expected to see time at the big league level this season. Milwaukee also has another top prospect, Jean Carmona (13th) at that position.
The 22-year-old Harrison was another prospect that became expendable because of the depth at the outfield position. Harrison had a big season last year between low and high-A. He was still a ways away from the big leagues at this point in his career.
The last player involved in the trade, 21-year-old Jordan Yamamoto is coming off a good season in high-A with Carolina, but was among the organization top-10 pitching prospects.
Yelich will be under contract through a good chunk of his prime. He won’t be eligible for free agency until 2022. Yelich will command the most money during the 2021 season, a season in which he will make $15 million. Milwaukee basically nailed down an All-Star caliber player for a reasonable price during the prime of his career.
Many fans have questioned the signing of Cain, especially after trading for Yelich. Yes, the Brewers still have a crowded outfield. Yes, Cain turns 32 years old during this upcoming season. Yes, he’s making an average of $16 million per year over the next five season with this new deal.
What many people don’t know is that is that every Major League Baseball owner was given $50 million due to the deal that Disney struck with the league related to streaming and marketing. This means that Milwaukee’s owner, Mark Attanasio, could put that money towards the Brewers team salary. In the past, Attanasio hasn’t hesitated to spend money when he feels the team can contend and these moves suggest he does.
The Brewers could essentially use that money to pay for part of Cain’s $80 million contract. This would leave Milwaukee on the hook for $30 million over the next five years, which makes it a much more team-friendly deal at $6 million per year over five years. Under the ownership of Attanasio, the Brewers have seen their team salary rise as high as $110 million. The Brewers expected salary is around $90 million for the upcoming season, which should leave the Brewers with roughly $20 million dollars a year to spend on future signings, extensions, etc. The Brewers still have financial flexibility to make future moves.
Brewers fans are a winning starved bunch and just seeing progress from off-season moves like these can lead to this kind of “all in” thinking by fans. The moves that Stearns and the Brewers made yesterday by no means show that the Brewers are in the “win now” mode. These two transactions are just another step in the rebuild and the push for getting to the World Series in the near future. Milwaukee definitely added better players to their roster yesterday, but still have a farm full of prospects, financial flexibility, and time to build towards championships.