Christian Yelich

Christian Yelich set to sign huge contract extension with Brewers

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USA TODAY

Christian Yelich set to sign huge contract extension with Brewers

Christian Yelich will be terrorizing National League Central foes for the foreseeable future.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, Yelich is close to signing a seven-year, $190 million deal with the Brewers.

Yelich’s previous deal had him under contract through 2022 with an option for 2023. His new deal wipes out the option and will keep him in Milwaukee through 2029 for about $215 million total, per Rosenthal.

The Brewers acquired Yelich in the 2017-18 offseason from the Marlins, whose goal was to clear salary under new ownership. The 28-year-old was a respectable hitter with Miami (career .290/.369/.432 slash line) but has ascended into a perennial MVP candidate with the Brewers.

Yelich won the NL batting title and MVP award in 2018, hitting .326/.402/.598 with 36 homers and 110 RBIs. He willed the Brewers to the postseason, helping erase the Cubs’ five-game lead in the NL Central on Sept. 1. Milwaukee beat the North Siders at Wrigley Field in a Game 163 to win the division crown. They made it to Game 7 of the NLCS and lost to the Dodgers.

Yelich again won the batting title last season, and before breaking his kneecap on Sept. 10, was neck-and-neck with Dodgers’ outfielder Cody Bellinger for MVP. He finished the year with a .329/.429/.671 line (all No. 1 in the NL) with 44 homers and 97 RBIs in just 130 games.

The Brewers rallied without Yelich and secured a surprise wild card game berth, though they surrendered a late lead and fell to the eventual-World Series champion Nationals. 

Although the Brewers turned over close to half their roster this winter, they can take solace in having Yelich for the next decade, much to the dismay of the rest of the NL Central.

Brewers pay a premium for offensive upgrade

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USA TODAY

Brewers pay a premium for offensive upgrade

The Milwaukee Brewers either really believe in Avisail Garcia or else they were desperate for a bat.

After losing Yasmani Grandal (White Sox) and Mike Moustakas (Reds) to free agency, the Brewers turned around and filled a need by inking Garcia to a two-year, $20 million deal Monday afternoon:

Garcia set a new career high with 20 homers in 2019 while playing with the Rays, but seemingly everybody set new personal bests in longballs last season and by comparison, 20 isn't a hefty total. He also only made $3.5 million after being non-tendered by the White Sox last winter, so this is a serious pay raise. 

The Brewers spent much of the offseason shedding payroll and revamping their roster, but it seems odd to turn around and invest all those savings into an outfielder who is not a great defender and has notched only 1.9 WAR combined over the last two seasons. For reference, MLB Trade Rumors predicted Garcia would sign a contract worth $12 million over two years and FanGraphs' crowdsource came in at two years, $13.5 million.

He's only 28, but Garcia has posted an above-average offensive season just three times in his seven years in the big leagues. He is a career .273 hitter with a .323 on-base percentage, but both of those numbers are buoyed by his 2017 season (.330 AVG, .380 OBP) that looks like an outlier against the rest of his career.

He also has never played even 150 games in a season while dealing with injuries every season.

Still, it's an upgrade for the Brewers who began the day with Ben Gamel projected as their everyday left fielder and Ryan Braun on track to move to first base full time. Garcia figures to slot in behind Braun, Christian Yelich, Lorenzo Cain and Keston Hiura in the Milwaukee batting order. 

The offseason isn't over yet, but it's certainly a sizeable investment for a team with budget issues to spend on a player with major weaknesses in his game. Next season is shaping up as an interesting year for the NL Central as four teams (Brewers, Cubs, Reds, Cardinals) figure to be in contention.

Worth noting: Garcia is just 1-for-22 in his career at Wrigley Field, good for an .045 batting average. He has hit .143 with a .329 OPS against Cubs pitching in 12 career games. 

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Christian Yelich out for season with fractured right knee cap, a devastating blow to Brewers' playoff chances

Christian Yelich out for season with fractured right knee cap, a devastating blow to Brewers' playoff chances

The Brewers' attempt to leapfrog their way into the postseason suffered a devastating blow on Tuesday.

Following their game against the Marlins, the Brewers announced that Christian Yelich is out for the rest of the season with a fractured right knee cap. Yelich, the 2018 National League MVP, fouled a pitch off of his knee in the first inning Tuesday. He immediately went down in pain and was removed from the game shortly after, unable to finish his at-bat.

With Yelich's injury, the top-2 finishers in the 2018 NL MVP voting are now out with injuries. The Cubs announced Monday that Javier Báez will miss the rest of the regular season with a hairline fracture in his left thumb. Báez could return in October, should the Cubs reach the postseason, however.

Although the Brewers beat the Marlins 4-3 Tuesday, there's no sugarcoating this one: losing Yelich is a devastating blow to Milwaukee's playoff chances.

While Yelich's 2018 season was nothing short of fantastic -- .326/.402/.598 slash line with 36 home runs in 147 games -- he's managed to top that in 2019. He'll finish the season with a .329/.429/.671 slash line with 44 home runs in just 130 games. The numbers tell the story when it comes to him, but the impact he has on the Brewers goes even deeper.

The Cubs saw firsthand what Yelich brings to the table every plate appearance last weekend. He makes opposing pitchers work extremely hard to get him out, though the Cubs struggled to do this in the four-game series against the Brewers. Yelich finished the series 6-for-13 with four walks -- three of which came on Saturday, when he hit a walk-off double off Cubs reliever Brandon Kintzler.

That at-bat was prototypical Yelich, who laid off two low pitches while also fouling off two borderline pitches. Kintzler's last pitch was an extremely competitive one: a sinker on the outside corner. Yelich still managed to deposit it into the left field corner for a game-winning double.

While no one is celebrating a former MVP going down with a scary injury, the Yelich news has positive and negative repercussions for the Cubs. The Brewers have a three-game series against the Cardinals this weekend, meaning St. Louis will catch a huge break not having to face Yelich. This hurts the Cubs, who entered Tuesday four games behind the Cardinals for first place in the NL Central.

The Brewers could move to 1.5 games back of the Cubs for the second NL wild card spot, should the latter lose to the Padres on Tuesday. Even so, Milwaukee has an uphill battle ahead of them. One doesn't replace what Yelich brings to the lineup every game: instant offense, great baserunning and solid defense in right field.

Nothing is impossible, but there's no doubting that the Brewers have their work cut out for them moving forward. 

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