Brewers believe Lorenzo Cain, soon to be 32, is worth calculated risk of five-year deal

Tom Haudricourt, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on

Published in Baseball

Of Cain's surge in production as he hit age 30 and beyond, Stearns said, "It's not by accident. It's because of how he's working, how he's preparing and how he's taking care of his body."

The powerfully built, 6-foot-2, 205-pound Cain literally went out of his way to take care of his body. He has trained for several years at the University of Oklahoma, not exactly around the corner from his family home in Madison, Fla.

During his first time around with the Brewers as one of their best prospects, Cain played in 2008 at Class A Brevard County, Fla. One of his teammates, outfielder Chuckie Caufield, had attended OU and invited him to train there in the offseason (Caufield is now a coach for the Brewers' Class AA Biloxi affiliate).

Cain's trips to Norman, Okla., became life-changing in more ways than one. He met OU gymnast Jenny Baker during one visit, a romance blossomed and they later married. Cain moved permanently to Norman and still trains at OU in the offseason under the guidance of strength and conditioning coach Tim Overman.

"(Overman) has completely re-shaped his workouts, completely re-shaped his flexibility, and given him the physical tools to back up the type of game he plays, which is all-out defense, stealing bases and stuff like that," said Cain's agent, Damon Lapa.

"You look at the traditional arc that those players have, that at some point in their mid-30s they're going to slow down. Well, last year he played the most games of his career, set a lot of career highs. He played some of the best defense his metrics have shown. So, at 31 years old, he had arguably one of his best seasons."

Lapa noted that Cain doesn't have the "mileage" on him that most players have at his age. He didn't start playing baseball until he failed to make his high school basketball team. No Little League. No youth baseball of any kind.

"You have to look at Lorenzo from a different perspective," Lapa said. "When you have a guy that literally never steps foot on the baseball field until he's 15 or 16 years old, you can't use the traditional aging models.

"David and his group have an advanced use of analytics and sabermetrics. They really appreciated and understood how Lorenzo contributes to a game. He's not a 30 (homer) and 100 (RBIs) guy who hits .260. He gets on base, hits for average and steals bases. He plays great defense. He does it all."

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Time will tell how this works out for the Brewers in the long run. Cain was a coveted free agent on the market and had other teams interested, so it probably took the fifth year for the Brewers to get their man. And, with teams controlling players for the first six years of their career, free agents generally don't become available until they are 30ish.

"When you fish in free-agent waters, you're often fishing in this pond that has players in their 30s," Stearns said. "If you're going to fish, you have to do it selectively and you need to make sure that you're comfortable the player is going to age appropriately."

As Brewers fans saw the first time around, Cain is an all-out player not afraid to crash into an outfield wall pursuing the ball. That aggressive style of play exposes him to injury on occasion but Stearns said that's the kind of player worth the big bucks.

"We believe this is a healthy player, a player who takes care of his body," Stearns said. "He plays exceptionally hard. Players who play hard are going to have injuries, sometimes. But you want a player who plays hard."

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