Brewers get big offseason moves right

Milwaukee's acquisitions of Cain, Yelich paying dividends in stretch run

September 14th, 2018

It's happened so many times that many of us have become cynical: a team "wins the offseason," then for whatever reason it doesn't come together. Think of the 2012 Marlins or the 2006 Blue Jays, among many other examples. Just because you make high-profile signings or trades doesn't mean those moves are going to translate to success.

This year, though, one of the biggest winners of the offseason … actually seems to have gotten it right.

The Brewers made two of the winter's biggest moves in the same week, trading for and signing . And it's worked out beautifully. They're leading the National League Wild Card chase, and 1 1/2 games behind the Cubs in the Central division.

What makes it more impressive is that at the time, the moves looked like the precursor to something else. The Brewers, it seemed, had a glut of outfielders, and surely they were going to trade one of them for a starting pitcher. They didn't. They're winning anyway, thanks in large part to the excellence of Cain and Yelich.

In fact, by one measure, it's been 17 years since a pair of moves worked out quite so well for one team. Cain stands at 6.5 WAR (according to Baseball Reference), first in the National League. Yelich is at 5.4, ranking fourth.

Only four other teams since 2000 have had two new hitting acquisitions top 5 WAR in their first season together. Only one team in that span, the 2001 Mariners, had two first-year acquisitions top Cain and Yelich's combined 11.9 mark, or had two rank in the top 5 in their league.

Those two pickups, signees Bret Boone (8.8, second in the AL) and (7.7, fourth), helped propel Seattle to a historic 116-win season, so it's pretty good company to be in.

The others:

2014 White Sox: 5.8, 5.3

2011 Rangers: 5.6, Mike Napoli 5.5

2008 Rangers: Josh Hamilton 5.5, Milton Bradley 5.2

Award battle of the week: AL Cy Young

While the National League Cy Young Award battle has gotten a bit clearer lately, the AL race is getting murkier. It's easy to see five pitchers -- Chris Sale, , , , and -- get consideration. And the thing is, almost all of them have wildly different profiles.

Among the starters, Sale has the most dominant excellence, but the fewest innings, while Verlander is the opposite. But Verlander has rebounded from an August slump, with two super September starts getting him back on track. Sale made his return from the disabled list but pitched just one inning, and an innings total higher than about 160 seems difficult

In between there are Snell and Bauer, having very similar seasons. But Snell is absolutely torrid, while Bauer is also hurt, making it difficult to imagine him garnering votes over the pitcher with the most similar numbers.

Then there's Diaz, having a historically brilliant season in relief. He'll probably fall short of the single-season saves record, but voters having a hard time parsing between the starters might well look his way.

Stat of the week:

On top of his brilliant offense and excellent defense, has also become a historically great basestealer. With 23 steals in 25 attempts this season, Trout is now 188 for 222 in his career, a success rate of 84.7 percent. That gives him the fourth-highest stolen-base percentage in history among players with at least 150 career steals. He trails only , Carlos Beltran, and Tim Raines.

Series of the week: Rockies at Dodgers, Monday through Wednesday

Things have gotten awfully dire for the D-backs awfully quickly, so while it's too soon to call the NL West a two-team race, it's at least trending that way. This is the last head-to-head meeting between the division's top two teams, who as of this writing are separated by 1 1/2 games. and should both pitch, adding to the intrigue.