How Brewers' big moves will affect rest of market

Cain's lucrative deal, Yelich acquisition catapult Crew into contention

January 26th, 2018

The Milwaukee Brewers play in Major League Baseball's smallest local television market.

On Thursday, they awarded with the richest free-agent contract signed by any player this offseason and traded for , who is less than one year removed from his star turn as Team USA's No. 3 hitter at the World Baseball Classic.

Thanks to an unlikely ignitor, the Hot Stove is smoldering at last. Here's a look at the immediate impacts of an evening that whipsawed the baseball industry.

The Brewers aren't done dealing.

Undeniably, Milwaukee's roster is more talented than it was Thursday morning. It's also more lopsided, with five everyday outfielders: Cain, Yelich, , and . There's a good chance that one of them will be traded by Opening Day. Santana, a 25-year-old right fielder coming off a 30-home run season, is the likeliest candidate.

The Brewers will want a No. 2 starter -- or better -- for a package headlined by Santana. The Rays wouldn't trade Chris Archer for Santana alone, but that's the type of concept general manager David Stearns may raise with his counterparts across the Majors.

The Indians are perhaps the most logical of all the potential trade partners. Santana, a right-handed-hitting slugger, is a natural complement for a Cleveland outfield consisting of three left-swinging starters: , and . Brantley and Chisenhall missed substantial time with injuries in 2017, and both will be free agents after the upcoming season.

MLB.com's Anthony Castrovince reported that the Brewers have shown trade interest this offseason in Cleveland right-hander . Indians righty Mike Clevinger also could be of interest to Milwaukee, particularly because he's not scheduled to become a free agent until after 2022.

The Indians were among the teams that pursued Cain as a free agent, according to ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, so it's apparent that Cleveland is involved in the outfield market. (Crasnick also listed the Cubs, Dodgers and Giants as having interest in Cain.)

The Brewers believe they can win the franchise's first World Series title -- this year.

Cain won a World Series ring and an American League Championship Series MVP Award with the Royals. Yelich has National League Gold Glove and Silver Slugger Awards to go along with his World Baseball Classic gold medal. Both are regarded as exemplary teammates. They are precisely the type of players a general manager acquires when the opening of a championship window has arrived.

For Stearns to do so at the start of his third full season is appropriate -- and bold. The Brewers are coming off an 86-win season, their best in six years. The impact of Thursday's twin moves will define the franchise -- and its young GM -- for the remainder of the decade, and probably longer than that.

Milwaukee is nearly certain to add an impact starting pitcher in the coming weeks, because that is what a World Series contender would do under these circumstances.

What does all of this mean for ?

Thursday's events are relevant to Darvish, insofar as the Brewers are more likely to address their rotation need by trading Santana than signing an expensive free agent.

And then there's this: The Cubs have remained involved in the Darvish pursuit this week, according to a source. The incentive for Chicago to sign the right-hander is higher than ever now that division-rival Milwaukee has fortified its lineup.

The Marlins may not be done, either.

At this point, the Marlins might as well trade catcher J.T. Realmuto, too.

Let's be clear: Miami doesn't need to move Realmuto, who remains relatively inexpensive and won't be a free agent until after 2020.

But Realmuto's value never has been higher. He's coming off two strong offensive seasons in a row, during which he was the most valuable catcher in the Majors after , according to FanGraphs.com.

Since some teams are reluctant to trade for catchers at midseason, due to the difficulties in learning a new staff during a pennant race, Realmuto may have a better market now than in July.

The Nationals -- the Marlins' division rival -- have been the "most heavily engaged" team in trade discussions for Realmuto, according to Craig Mish of SiriusXM radio. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman reported that Miami has asked Washington for its top prospect, outfielder .

And with entering free agency after 2018, the Nats are perhaps even more motivated than the Brewers to win the World Series this year.