MILWAUKEE -- It was a blockbuster Thursday night for the Brewers, who acquired Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich for four premium prospects, including top-rated Lewis Brinson, then struck a deal with free agent Lorenzo Cain pending a physical exam.The one-two punch left the Brewers brimming with outfielders and poised to make
MILWAUKEE -- It was a blockbuster Thursday night for the Brewers, who acquired Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich for four premium prospects, including top-rated Lewis Brinson, then struck a deal with free agent Lorenzo Cain pending a physical exam.
The one-two punch left the Brewers brimming with outfielders and poised to make additional trades before Opening Day. Cain's agreement, confirmed by MLB.com's Jon Paul Morosi and reportedly for five years and $80 million, is likely to be finalized on Friday.
So long to Milwaukee's rebuilding project.
"We are always looking to make our team better and our organization better," said Brewers general manager David Stearns, who declined comment on Cain but did discuss the addition of Yelich. "As the competitiveness of our Major League team increases, we talked openly that we're going to have to supplement that group. We're going to have to add to that group to push us in the right direction."
Cain's contract would be the richest for any free agent this offseason, and would be the richest free-agent deal in Brewers history. It includes a no-trade clause and significant award bonuses.
Milwaukee now has a surplus of outfielders that it will need to solve, with Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips also in the mix.
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If the Cain deal is completed and, as has been reported, is worth more than $50 million, the Royals would receive a compensatory 2018 Draft pick between the first round and Competitive Balance Round A.
The Brewers, as a team that receives revenue sharing, would lose their third-highest selection in the 2018 Draft by signing Cain. If Milwaukee signs two players for at least $50 million each, it would also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.
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"[The Brewers] said from the minute free agency opened that I was on top of their list," Cain told MLB.com. "We just had to work through all the details, and eventually we both got to the numbers we liked.
"But I always thought it would work. I mean, they called all the time and checked up on me. I was on top of their list, and they were on top of my list. I got calls and offers from other teams, but it was really down to them."
Because Cain was offered a qualifying offer by the Royals and is signing for more than $50 million, the Brewers will forfeit their third-highest selection in the 2018 Draft. If Milwaukee signs another $50 million-plus player, it would also forfeit its fourth-highest pick.
The 31-year-old Cain is a plus defender who began his career with the Brewers as a 17th-round Draft pick in 2004. He was traded in a package of prospects to the Royals for Zack Greinke in December 2010 and blossomed with Kansas City, where he batted .300/.363/.440 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs in 155 games in 2017.
Yelich, 26 years old and equally well-rounded, came at a cost. Besides Brinson, baseball's 13th-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline's current rankings, Milwaukee parted with infielder Isan Diaz, outfielder Monte Harrison and right-hander Jordan Yamamoto for Yelich, a former Gold Glove Award and Silver Slugger Award winner who, like Cain, could be with the Brewers for the next five years.
Yelich's contract guarantees him $44.5 million for the next four seasons, with a $15 million club option for 2022. He is a .290/.369/.432 hitter in four-plus Major League seasons.
"It's been crazy," said Yelich, whose agent publicly lobbied last week for a trade in the wake of cost-cutting deals that sent Marlins stars Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon elsewhere. "I'm definitely glad that it's over with and you don't have to answer questions about where you're going and when you're getting traded and if you're getting traded.
"Honestly, it was getting exhausting. For me, it's more of a relief that it's over and you can get back to focusing on playing baseball and doing what you love to do. So I'm excited for the new opportunity and glad all that stuff is behind."
Stearns said Milwaukee and Miami had been talking for months, and the framework of the final iteration of the trade began to take shape Wednesday. Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill suggested the Brewers sweetened their offer on Thursday to push talks over the finish line.
Both Hill and Stearns insisted that Yelich's desire to escape Miami's rebuild did not play a significant role in negotiations.
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"I would say it's been a process," Hill said. "I think as the offseason has gone on and we've looked at every opportunity for us to continue to improve this organization and add depth and add talent, we were very thorough. We didn't want to do anything that we didn't think made us better in the long run, and I think that Milwaukee is a club that expressed interest in Christian early on in the offseason. But I think we weren't able to agree on a deal that worked for both of us until today."
MLB Pipeline is poised to release updated prospect rankings this week, and Brinson, the Brewers' reigning Minor League Player of the Year, was to remain in the top spot, with Harrison jumping up to No. 4 following a 21-homer season at Class A and Class A Advanced. Diaz would have remained in the top 10, and Yamamoto would have moved into the top 30 for the first time.
"Lewis has done everything he can throughout his Minor League career to put himself in this upper echelon of prospects throughout baseball. He deserves that recognition," Stearns said. "He was a great guy to have in the organization. We appreciate everything he did here and we certainly expect the Marlins and their fan base are going to get a very good player, a good person, and someone they are going to like."
For the Brewers, it felt like the right time to spend.
"We've got a chance to be pretty good," Cain said. "I'm looking forward to doing whatever I can to help. It would seem we're a playoff contender."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Yelich gets a major fantasy boost from this trade, as he will move from a retooling lineup in a pitcher-friendly park to a potentially potent order with more hitter-friendly confines. Overall, the 26-year-old should be regarded as a safe five-category option in Round 5 of standard-league drafts. The arrival of Yelich will also cause Broxton (20 homers, 21 steals in 2017) to move to a reserve role and come off mixed-league draft lists. Meanwhile, in Miami, Brinson instantly become a deep-league sleeper due to his strong career Minor League numbers (.287/.353/.502 slash line) and opportunity to grab a regular role in Spring Training.
With the skills to produce a high batting average, 15 homers and 25 steals, Cain ranks as a viable fifth-round option now that he has the potential to score 100 runs from atop an improved Brewers lineup. Furthermore, the additions of Cain and Yelich boost the counting-stat potential and overall fantasy value of mainstays such as Braun and Travis Shaw. However, Santana (30 homers, 15 steals in 2017) is now without a regular role and will need to be drafted late in mixed leagues unless he is dealt by Opening Day.
Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy and like him on Facebook.