Christian Yelich

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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Yu Darvish encouraged after first start back from forearm injury

Yu Darvish encouraged after first start back from forearm injury

MILWAUKEE — Despite the way the game ended Saturday night, there was actually a major positive the Cubs can take away from Miller Park.

Yu Darvish pitched brilliantly in his first start back after skipping a turn in the rotation with forearm tightness and came away feeling great physically after the Cubs' 3-2 loss.

Darvish did not give up a run and struck out 7 across 5 innings, retiring 13 of the final 15 batters he faced after allowing a single and walk in the first inning. 

He finished with only 72 pitches, but the Cubs didn't want to push it.

"He was outstanding," Joe Maddon said. "He wanted to stay in. I said, 'listen, we decided before the game 5 [innings] and 75 [pitches], that's exactly almost what you hit. I love the idea you want to go back out, but you go back out in the sixth and all of the sudden you feel that again, then we've lost all this momentum that we gathered.' He was really good about it. His stuff was really good tonight."

Darvish felt his mechanics were off slightly after the 10-day layoff between starts and had no complaints about coming out of the game and understands the big picture.

"I wanted to go one more inning," Darvish said. "We talked about it a couple minutes, but [Maddon] explained why he didn't want me to pitch one more inning and I understand 100 percent what he's saying.

"The first five innings, I didn't feel anything in the forearm, but if I go out there one more and if I feel it again, that means I have to skip at least one more start. That makes sense."

Darvish left with a 1-0 lead and in line for his sixth victory of the season, but the Cubs bullpen surrendered 3 runs over the next four innings, including a walk-off double by Christian Yelich with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.

The Cubs now find themselves down 3.5 games in the NL Central standings and only 1.5 games up on the Arizona Diamondbacks for the final playoff spot (the second Wild-Card). But getting Darvish back and healthy was huge, especially as he's in line to make four more starts this season, including two against the Cardinals.

Darvish now has a 2.69 ERA and 79 strikeouts against only 4 walks in 60.1 innings since the All-Star Break.