MILWAUKEE -- It became quite clear Thursday just how much the Milwaukee Brewers wanted Miami outfielder Christian Yelich. And they didn't stop there in reshaping their outfield for years to come.
In a blockbuster deal for the multi-talented Yelich, the Brewers traded away outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison, infielder Isan Diaz and right-hander Jordan Yamamoto. Brinson was the consensus No. 1 prospect in the Brewers' system, and Harrison and Diaz were ranked in the top 10.
That news was still fresh when reports surfaced that the Brewers also signed free-agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million contract. The team would not confirm that report because Cain has to pass a physical examination first but it was obvious their outfield plans had changed dramatically.
All indications are the Brewers will announce the Cain signing on Friday. At that time, general manager David Stearns might reveal what the plans are for a very crowded outfield that still includes the three starters from last season -- left fielder Ryan Braun, center fielder Keon Broxton and right fielder Domingo Santana.
The Brewers have had Santana on the trade market all winter and no doubt would part with Broxton as well in the right deal. Cain is a tremendous defender in center and likely will see the bulk of the action there. Yelich played left field in Miami before moving to center last season so it remains to be seen if Braun, who has three years remaining on a big contract, will play every day in left.
"We view Christian Yelich as one of the bright, young players in baseball right now," Stearns said. "Both offensively and defensively, we view him as a player who can contribute to a championship-caliber team. We think he has proven that over his young career and we expect him to continue to do so.
"Anytime you're acquiring a player of that caliber, you're going to have to give up talent, and we certainly did, and we recognize that. We think the players we traded are going to be very productive major leaguers, and we're certainly very happy to have a player like Christian Yelich in our lineup every day at this point."
The trade was a huge vote of confidence in a rebuilding club that surprised many by moving forward in 2017 with 86 victories, falling just one short of tying for the second wild-card berth in the National League. By trading away some of the franchise's future for a known commodity such as Yelich, management is showing its belief that the Brewers can be a legitimate contender again in the NL Central.
Yelich made it clear he would like to be traded after Miami's new management, led by Derek Jeter, began stripping the payroll by trading outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna and second baseman Dee Gordon. They would be slashing more money if they dealt Yelich, who has four years remaining on a seven-year, $49.57 million extension that also includes a $15 million team option for 2022. Yelich has a $7 million salary for 2018.
Yelich, a left-handed hitter, has evolved into a multi-dimensional threat in recent seasons. Last year, he batted .282 with 18 homers, 81 RBIs, 16 stolen bases and .807 OPS in 156 games for the Marlins. After playing left field earlier in his career, he played in center in 2017.
In 643 games with Miami, Yelich has batted .290 with a .369 OBP, 59 homers, 293 RBIs and 72 steals.
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