Where do Brewers go after Cain, Yelich deals?

Milwaukee adds pair of top outfielders to crowded mix

January 25th, 2018

MILWAUKEE -- and could represent just the start of a sprint to the offseason finish line for general manager David Stearns and the Brewers.
In a pair of acquisitions on Thursday that raised as many questions as they answered, the Brewers made a blockbuster trade with the Marlins just as they were sealing a five-year, $80 million contract with Cain. The duo joined an outfield mix which, even with the departure of top Brewers prospect in the Yelich trade, already returned the three primary starters from the Brewers' 86-win 2017 season -- left fielder , center fielder and right fielder . There's also prospect Brett Phillips, who took to Twitter to register his confusion before deleting his tweet.
Perhaps answers will come on Friday, when the Cain contract is finalized and Stearns is free to dissect the day the Brewers rounded the corner from rebuilding and headed toward contention.
"The objective of the plan is to build a team that can consistently win, consistently compete for division championships and consistently compete for World Series," Stearns said in the wake of the Yelich trade. "We think this is a big step in that direction."

Before they get there, here are some questions seeking answers:
1. Does this set up more trades?
The Brewers suddenly have a ton of outfield control. Cain, 31, and Yelich, 26, are both signed for the next five years (if you include the club option on Yelich's contract). Broxton has five years remaining before he reaches free agency, and Santana has four. Braun has three guaranteed years left on his contract.
Then, there is Phillips, who still has six years of club control ahead and heads a list of Brewers outfield prospects that includes 2016 first-round Draft pick Corey Ray, who played at Class A Advanced Carolina last season.
Some of those players will have to be moved, either to new teams or new positions. Considering Cain's contract is the richest free-agent deal in Brewers history and Yelich cost four premium prospects, including Brinson -- and the fact that both players are plus defenders -- it stands to reason that they will play regularly.

The Brewers have had no luck trading Braun, but Santana has drawn interest and could headline a swap for starting pitching. On the other hand, Santana is 25 years old, cheap and coming off a 30-homer breakthrough season, so perhaps Stearns will shop Phillips or Broxton instead.
"We're always trying to explore getting better, so it's always possible there will be additional moves in the coming weeks or months," Stearns said. "But not a certainty."
2. OK, so what if everyone stays?
Cain is the best defender of the bunch and would probably man center field, though the Brewers like Yelich there, too. Yelich won a National League Gold Glove Award with the Marlins as a left fielder. Santana does not rate well defensively, but he has a strong arm and has manned right for most of his Brewers tenure. Phillips and Broxton, who might have to open the season in the Minors if everyone stays, are premium center fielders and can play all three spots.
What would this scenario mean for Braun, the former infielder who was limited last year by calf and wrist injuries and has a history of back problems? That was one of the more glaring unanswered questions on Thursday night.

3. Will Stearns now be more aggressive on other fronts?
After putting a dent in the farm system to land Yelich and in the bank account for Cain, might the Brewers just go all-in and continue to splurge at other positions? They have been linked to some of top free-agent starters, including , , and Alex Cobb, going as far as making an offer to Darvish.
At the moment, Chase Anderson, and offseason acquisition  appear to be locked in to Milwaukee's rotation. Jimmy Nelson is ahead of schedule, but will miss Opening Day while he completes his comeback from shoulder surgery. It appears that will start the year in the bullpen. There remains room to add here.
The Brewers might also be inclined to take a fresh look around the rest of the diamond. Rather than gamble with a / platoon at second base, they could re-sign , who remains a free agent, or trade for the Pirates' Josh Harrison. And is still a free agent if the Brewers think they can improve on their current catching duo of and .
Is there money left in the budget to add? Probably. The yearly breakdown of Cain's contract is not yet known, but plugging in the average annual value ($16 million) and estimating salaries for minimum-salary players in the remaining slots would put the Brewers in the $85 million to $90 million range. The Brewers have gone as high as the $110 million neighborhood under owner Mark Attanasio.
As of Thursday, there were exactly nine weeks to go before the Brewers' season opener in San Diego. There is plenty of time for answers to emerge.