The hot stove league has been dormant for most of the off-season. The stove was cold, you might say. This is no longer the case thanks to David Stearns and the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brew Crew acquired outfielder Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins in exchange for four prospects, including top-prospect Lewis Brinson. Less than an hour later news broke that the Brewers signed free agent Lorenzo Cain to a 5-year, $80 million deal. These deals will help the Brewers contend for the playoffs over the next four seasons.
Christian Yelich is a terrific defender and productive hitter; he’s the exact type of player Brewers fans hoped Lewis Brinson would become. Yelich, however, has a four-year track record with the Marlins whereas Brinson is still unproven in the big leagues. Yelich is also signed to a team-friendly through 2021 at an average of $9 million per season. The Brewers also traded two other top-10 prospects to complete the deal, so Yelich did not come cheap. Of course, Yelich is only 26 years old and still hitting his prime; players like this do not come cheap. He will help the Brewers for the duration of his tenure in Milwaukee.
The Brewers also re-acquired Lorenzo Cain via free agency. Oddly enough, the Brewers have not been the center of the hot stove league since 2010 when they traded Cain to the Kansas City Royals as part of the Zack Greinke deal. Cain hit .300 last season and stole 26 bases, all while being one of the best centerfielders in baseball. Cain will turn 32 this season, so unlike Yelich he is a tad past his prime. Even so, Cain projects to age well meaning that he will likely be a productive player throughout his contract.
The Brewers still need to improve their rotation, add some relief help, and figure out second base. The good news is the Brewers still have plenty of assets to trade. Ryan Braun, Keon Broxton, and Domingo Santana (among others) could all net a useful return for the Brewers in a trade, though in the case of Braun this would likely be in the form of salary relief.
David Stearns is proving himself to be uniquely talented at building for the future and the present. At this point Brewers fans should be confident that his next move will be a good one. This is an exciting time for baseball in Milwaukee.