The Milwaukee Brewers are rewarding Christian Yelich for two great years by signing the former NL MVP to an extension that puts him among the game’s elite
The Milwaukee Brewers don’t rank among baseball’s large-payroll clubs and usually act accordingly, letting players leave rather than sign big contracts. Not this time, though, because in Christian Yelich they finally have a special player worthy of special attention.
The Brewers and Yelich are close to signing a seven-year contract extension worth around $215 million that will keep the former National League MVP outfielder in Milwaukee the rest of his career. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the deal is likely to be completed on Friday.
The 28-year-old Yelich has blossomed into one of the game’s elite hitters since joining the Brewers in 2018 after a trade from the Miami Marlins. In two seasons in Milwaukee, Yelich ranks third in the majors with 80 home runs, leads all hitters in batting average (.327, eight points better than Mookie Betts), and is behind only Mike Trout in on-base percentage and slugging percentage. He and Trout are the only two batters with an OPS better than 1.000 over the last two seasons.
Yelich won NL MVP in 2018 after leading the Brewers to their first division title in seven years and could’ve won it again last season if not for a broken kneecap that kept him out for the final 18 games. Yelich has led the NL with an OPS above 1.000 each of the past two seasons, something only Willie McCovey, Mike Schmidt, Barry Bonds, and Albert Pujols accomplished in the last 50 years.
But Yelich wasn’t being paid like a superstar. He was set to earn $12.5 million this season, 106th in the league, and $14 million in 2021, with a $15 million team option for 2022. The new deal, which will put his annual salary above $30 million, will see him join the ranks of the game’s elite like Trout ($37 million), Nolan Arenado ($35 million), and Manny Machado ($32 million).
The deal is a step toward Yelich achieving the recognition he deserves. For the Brewers, moreover, it dispels their legacy as a small-market club unwilling to sign their top players. Milwaukee ranked 16th in the league in payroll in 2019 on their way to a second consecutive postseason appearance. But Yasmani Grandal is now with the Chicago White Sox and Mike Moustakas signed with the Cincinnati Reds. The Brewers were heading into 2020 with the 22nd-highest payroll at $93 million, a sharp decrease from the $135 million they spent in 2019.
The Brewers will need all the help they can get, because the NL Central is once again shaping up to be among the most competitive divisions in the league. The Cardinals won the division with 91 wins last year, while the Cubs are due for a rebound after a disappointing 84 wins in 2019. The Reds are only getting better with the additions of Moustakas and Nick Castellanos.
The cost-cutting Brewers were in danger of falling behind their division rivals. Keeping Yelich, though, is a signal to those teams and to their own fan base that they’re not giving up just yet.