Where were you the day that the Milwaukee Brewers decided to make a couple of bold moves that would have impacts on the direction of the franchise?
The 2017 Milwaukee Brewers were a team that came out of nowhere in the middle of a rebuild. In fact, the year prior to 2016, the team was 73-89. Craig Counsell was about to start his third year under helm as the Brewers skipper – with a roster that featured a lot of unknowns. For example, the Brewers signed former MLB player and at the time Korean baseball star Eric Thames, as well as dealing away Tyler Thornburg in an absolute fleecing of a deal to Boston for minor prospects, also including infielder Travis Shaw. To add a couple names to the mix, Eric Sogard signed with the ball club as a free agent, as well as a transaction involving Jesus Aguilar, when he was acquired from the Cleveland Indians.
At the time, David Stearns was using some creativity with a limited budget – as the Brewers forever have been known as one of the small market teams in the MLB. He made some low-risk, high reward signing and moves, very similar to how this offseason has gone as well. But those players outplayed their potential, helping spark some general interest in the NL Central and in the league for an up and coming ballclub about to make the headlines and do big things in 2018.
Let’s go to that day two years ago and assess the deals that were made. Keep in mind, the Brewers outfield before these moves included Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, and Keon Broxton:
LORENZO CAIN SIGNS a 5-YEAR, $80 MILLION DEAL WITH THE MILWAUKEE BREWERS
Lorenzo Cain chose to come home to where it all began with the original team that drafted and developed him in Milwaukee. LoCain was first called up to the majors back in 2010 and played in 43 games before being dealt to the Royals, along with pitchers Jeremy Jeffress, Jake Odorizzi, and infielder Alcides Escobar, which brought the great Zack Grienke to Milwaukee. Cain was a staple for the Kansas City Royals, who won the World Series in 2015, and was also the notable 2014 ALCS MVP for the club. If there’s one word to describe Lorenzo Cain, it’s consistency. He possesses a bat that can get on base, and is one to keep an eye on while on the bases with steals. But he’s mostly known for his defense – since coming to Milwaukee, Cain has been featured week after week with some sort of an amazing catch in the field. After being robbed of a Gold Glove in 2018, Cain came back in 2019 and while not having the best season offensively, maybe had one of the best seasons on defense even while playing injured. His veteran leadership has proven valuable to the Milwaukee Brewers ballclub and is a fan favorite to many at Miller Park.
CHRISTIAN YELICH ACQUIRED FROM THE MARLINS IN A MULTI-PLAYER DEAL, SENDING FOUR TOP PROSPECTS TO MIAMI
The best thing about this trade is the comments right away following on Twitter. Have a look here:
Is there a trade in Milwaukee Brewers history that can be look back upon as being one of the most successful trades in franchise history? I would argue not.
Before this trade happened during the 2016 season, the Miami Marlins had an outfielder that featured these players: Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Ichiro Suzuki, and the man of the hour, Christian Yelich. Talk about a lot of offensive production!
Hall of Famer Derek Jeter bought the Marlins at the conclusion of the 2017 season from Jeffrey Loria. Jeter’s goal as the Marlins new CEO was to improve on the overall fan experience for the club and for the culture of the franchise. He then decided to move all of his assets with his ball club for younger, prospective talent, depleting the experiencing around the Fish.
The Brewers ended up shipping off outfielder Lewis Brinson (who saw some time in the majors in 2017) to Miami as the headlining piece in the deal. Brinson was one of the top prospects at the time that came to Milwaukee from Texas, when catcher Jonathan Lucroy & Jeremy Jeffress (again) was shipped out. Brinson featured a ton of speed, but still had to work on his bat a bit before being an impactful player. Since the trade, Brinson is still in Triple-A ball, as his struggling numbers at the plate and at the lead-off position were to blame for his demotion as he still works on putting it all together. Through his career so far, Brinson is batting .183 in his young career with 13 home runs.
Isan Diaz started off in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization, but came to Milwaukee in a deal that involved starting pitcher Chase Anderson & infielder Aaron Hill for young and promising infielder Jean Segura & pitching prospect Tyler Wagner. He was the other piece sent to Miami for Yelich, and finally made his debut last season. He is also off to a slow start in his young career, only batting .173 with 5 home runs through 49 games.
Jordan Yamamoto may be the lone prospect who has had somewhat of a decent start to his career for the Fish. The 23-year old Hawaiian native has made some starts for Miami, including going 4-5 in his rookie campaign with a 4.46 ERA. Monte Harrison, the last prospect mentioned in the deal, is still in Triple A ball with the Marlins, who should see his callup to the big leagues next season at some point. While the prospects have yet to make any sort of an impact, it’s possible that their breakthrough may be coming soon.
And then, there’s Christian Yelich. No explanation is needed for what he has brought to Milwaukee, the state of Wisconsin, and the game of baseball.
I think it’s safe to say that Christian Yelich is indeed the face of the Milwaukee Brewers – and it’s hard to imagine this ball club with Yelich in the lineup. After a successful MVP campaign in 2018 & a near chance at another one last season, Brewer fans are optimistic what Yelich can bring this season with the new pieces in and around the club. Being one game short of the World Series in 2018 has brought this club places that they’ve never been – and the investment from what he brings with his skillset should continue to reap in the rewards for the organization, as long as he is healthy.
Two powerful acquisitions have helped bring this franchise to new heights – let’s hope they continue to help make positive impacts in 2020. -WGL