Cain's return home to Crew 'meaningful'
Outfielder signs Brewers free-agent record five-year, $80 million deal
MILWAUKEE -- "Still looks good," a smiling Lorenzo Cain said as he pulled on a Brewers jersey for the first time in more than seven years. And with that, the memories flooded back.
Cain and his original team finalized a reunion Friday with a five-year pact that guarantees $80 million, a Brewers record for a free agent. Now 31, Cain will wear No. 6 this time around after donning No. 36 for his first stint in Milwaukee as a wiry rookie in 2010.
"I remember saying, 'You can hit the ball a long ways. Just try to do it,'" said Brewers manager Craig Counsell, a teammate of Cain's back then. "That was early -- I was telling him to hit home runs in 2010."
"We had a little wager, Prince [Fielder] and Counse," Cain said. "If you hit, I don't know, 10 home runs in batting practice, they would give me 50 bucks."
"I knew there was power in there," Counsell said. "I was trying to get the power out of him because I knew it was in there."
Said Cain: "That's the kind of guys they were. Those guys were pushing me, and they saw the potential in me and were trying to find any way to get it out of me. I definitely appreciate that, for sure."
The stories flowed Friday, when Cain, who was traded with other prospects to the Royals in December 2010 for Zack Greinke, returned via the richest contract for a free agent so far this offseason and the richest for a free agent in Brewers history, surpassed by only Ryan Braun's $105 million extension in 2011 among all contracts in franchise history.
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Cain will earn $13 million in 2018, $14 million in '19, $15 million in '20, $16 million in '21 and $17 million in '22, plus $1 million each year from 2023-27 in deferred payments. He will earn $300,000 in bonuses for each All-Star appearance, $500,000 for winning the National League Most Valuable Player Award, $250,000 for finishing second to fifth in the NL MVP Award race and $125,000 for finishing sixth to 10th.
Cain also received no-trade rights, with the ability to block deals to all 30 teams in the first year of the contract, to 15 teams in year two, to seven teams in years three and four, and to five teams in year five.
The sides agreed to those terms on the same day the Brewers acquired another top outfielder, Christian Yelich, in a trade with the Marlins.
"From my perspective, we're adding a very, very good player, and a guy that I feel like we know well, that has accomplished the height of the game," said Brewers general manager David Stearns in a reference to Cain's back-to-back World Series appearances with the Royals in 2014-15. "And it's going to be meaningful."
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Cain, a 17th-round pick by the Brewers in 2004, said Milwaukee was on him from the start of free agency, part of a plan hatched by Stearns and assistant GM Matt Arnold to load up on outfielders. Even after trading top prospect Lewis Brinson in the Yelich deal, all three of the Brewers' primary starters last season -- left fielder Braun, center fielder Keon Broxton and right fielder Domingo Santana -- are back, as is prospect Brett Phillips. Braun is on board with playing some first base beginning next season to help ease the logjam, Stearns said. Further trades are possible as well.
Cain, a finalist for the American League Gold Glove Award last season who peaked at 23 defensive runs saved in 2013, will see the majority of time in center field, Counsell said. But he had few definitive answers beyond that.
"We've got a lot of good choices, certainly," Counsell said. "They'll be tough choices, but there will be a lot of good choices. So that's how I'm looking at it. As we get better and the more good players we acquire, the lineup choices become tougher. David's making it tougher on me already with these moves, but that's great."