The Milwaukee Brewers are officially going for it in 2018 and beyond.
Milwaukee has agreed to a five-year, $80 million contract with free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain, a deal that is expected to be made official by the team on Friday. Cain, who has already passed his physical with the team, will start out the duration of his contract with a no-trade clause, before it shifts over to a partial no-trade clause.
Cain will also have the chance to earn more money over the lifetime of his contract via incentives. The 32-year-old outfielder will receive $300,000 bonus for each all-star he makes, and then $500,000 if he ever wins the National League’s MVP Award.
For Cain, it is a homecoming, as he is returning to the team that drafted him in in 2004. Cain also made his Major League debut with the Brewers in 2010, but was traded by the team that off-season to the Kansas City Royals along with Jake Odorizzi, Alcides Escobar and Jeremy Jeffress in-exchange for Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt. Jefress has since found his way back in Milwaukee, and the Brewers have been linked to trade rumors for Odorizzi in the past.
In Kansas City, Cain rose to stardom, with his notable accomplishment coming in the playoffs, as he was named the American League Championship Series MVP in 2015, the year the Royals went onto win the World Series over the New York Mets. Cain’s regular season numbers in 2015 were also noteworthy, with a slashline of .307/.361/.477, 16 homers, 72 runs batted in, and 28 stolen bases. He was worth a 7.2 WAR that year, per Baseball Reference, while also saving 18 runs manning center field that season.
The acquisition of Cain is the second major transaction by the Brewers today, joining the team’s trade for Christian Yelich shortly before the signing of Cain was reported. With Yelich and Cain both on-board with the Brewers for the next 5 years, this means the Brewers will dangle their outfield depth in trades to upgrade other areas of their roster, specifically starting pitching. USA TODAY’s Sports Bob Nightengale says the team is shopping outfielders Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips in the hope of landing a starting pitcher. Santana seems the most likely to go, as there is no room for him to start in Milwaukee’s crowded outfield, where Phillips could potentially serve as a fourth outfielder for the Brewers, with an emphasis on being the backup to left fielder Ryan Braun.
Speaking of Braun, from a pure baseball standpoint, the Brewers would likely prefer to trade him over Santana, who is coming off a career-year that featured 30 homers. However, Braun has a full no-trade clause, and has said in the past the only team he would consider rep pealing his no-trade clause for is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who nearly traded for Braun back in 2016, but all indications now seem like the Dodgers are completely out on Braun. Braun is still guaranteed over $50 million by the Brewers.
Braun is coming off of an injury plagued 2017 season that held him to lower overall numbers than he would’ve liked, but he is not far removed from his 4.4 WAR season in 2016 that featured a batting average over .300 as well as 30 homers and 91 RBIs. Braun has shown time and time again that he can be very productive when his health is fully right, and there is no reason to think that won’t be the case in 2018 if everyone checks out health wise.
The name that the Brewers have been linked to the most this off-season in the pitching market is Tampa Bay Rays starter Chris Archer. While a report that came out today stated that Archer is confident he’ll stick with the Rays, the trade window for the Brewers could re-open up again with a clearer picture of the type of offer they can throw Tampa’s way.
Right now, Milwaukee’s rotation projects to look something like Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, Jhoulys Chacin, Brent Suter, and then no clarity as to who’s the favorite for the 5th spot in the rotation, with Yovani Gallardo being the most likely option right. Right-handed pitcher Jimmy Nelson, who was the club’s ace in 2017, is set to miss an undetermined portion of the 2018 season with a right shoulder injury. Adding in Archer or any other controllable starting pitcher would help lessen the blow of Nelson’s absence, and stabilize Milwaukee’s rotation for years to come.
You can certainly bank on the Brewers trading from their outfield depth to upgrade other areas, but it remains to be seen which outfielders will be dealt, and which area the Brewers will find the right trade for. Either way, something else big is coming for the Brewers, who could potentially end up walking away from the off-season as Major League Baseball’s biggest winners.
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