The Milwaukee Brewers are looking to capitalize on last year’s surprising season. After barely missing out on the playoffs in 2017, the team made a blockbuster trade to ensure that doesn’t happen this season, picking up outfielder Christian Yelich in a deal with the Miami Marlins. The move was first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
The 26-year-old Yelich hit .282/.369/.439, with 18 home runs, over 695 plate appearances with the Marlins last season. He should slot in as Milwaukee’s everyday center fielder, and may be the club’s leadoff man in 2018.
The deal has implications for Milwaukee beyond next year. Yelich is under contract through 2021, and has an option for 2022. The move not only gives the Brewers a star-caliber center fielder, but one at a minimal cost for years to come.
The cost for Yelich wasn’t cheap. Milwaukee gave up four players in the deal, including top prospect Lewis Brinson.
Marlins get a big haul from the Brewers for Yelich: Top prospect Lewis Brinson plus Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison and Jordan Yamamoto. Brinson, Diaz and Harrison are all among @MLBPipeline's top 15 Brewers prospects.
— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) January 25, 2018
The club also gave up outfielder Monte Harrison, their No. 5 prospect, infielder Isan Diaz their No. 9 prospect and Jordan Yamamoto, who ranked outside the team’s top-10, according to Baseball America.
Of that group, both Brinson and Harrison also rated on Baseball America’s top-100 prospect list. Brinson came in at 16th on that list. Harrison ranked 75th.
Brinson, 23, should be viewed as the centerpiece of the deal. He’s the only player of the group to have already made his major-league debut. In 55 plate appearances in 2017, Brinson hit just .106/.236/.277. That’s a tiny sample, though. Over six seasons in the minors, he’s hit .287/.353/.502.
Despite his struggles last season, Brinson is considered major-league ready, and should have an opportunity to be a full-time starter with the Marlins in 2018. Harrison, Diaz and Yamamoto have yet to play above High A yet, so they’ll likely spend 2018 in the minors.
The move reinforces the Marlins massive rebuild moving forward. Considering Yelich was signed to a cheap deal for many years, it’s clear the Marlins are looking to completely tear things down now. That means suitors should be lining up for catcher J.T. Realmuto, who seems much more likely to be dealt. Both players expressed their desire to be traded earlier in the offseason. Yelich got his wish Thursday.
By prospect rank, Brinson and Harrison are the two best players the Marlins have acquired all offseason. In their previous deals this winter, the team was panned for not getting enough in return. Analysts can debate that with the Yelich move, but at least the team got a top-20 prospect for him.
For Milwaukee, it’s evidence that the team sees last year as the start of a new contention window. At 86-76, the club missed out on the postseason by one game in 2017. Yelich helps them get over that hump.
But the scariest thing here is that Milwaukee may not be done. The team has been rumored to be involved for Yu Darvish, and general manager David Stearns refused to comment on whether Lorenzo Cain could still be an option after the Yelich deal.
The Brewers are already a wild card contender with Yelich. If they add another big name to their roster, they can set their sights on dethroning the Chicago Cubs at the top of the division.
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