Quick take: Projecting Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain

The Milwaukee Brewers are going for it. They’re all in. They almost got a taste of October baseball in last season, and now, in 2018, they want everything. But, unlike in past seasons, they’re building up for long-term success. General manager David Stearns isn’t messing around, and he proved that by executing two high-profile moves almost simultaneously on Thursday night.

The Brewers brought highly coveted Christian Yelich (4.5 WAR in ’17) from the Miami Marlins to Milwaukee in exchange for Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto, while also signing free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain (4.1 WAR) to a five-year, $80 million deal. In an instant, the Brewers lost their top prospect in Brinson while substantially upgrading their outfield, not only offensively, but on the defensive side as well. In fact, they have a chance to own one of baseball’s most improved defensive outfields when it’s all said and done. With Cain’s lightning speed and Yelich’s career 20 defensive runs saved, hitters are going to have a tough time finding gaps in the outfield grass.

Yelich, who just turned 26, is under team control through 2021 with a club option for 2022. He’ll make $7 million in 2018 before seeing his salary rise every year until the end of his deal. He’s coming off back-to-back 4.5 WAR seasons and produced a 115 wRC+ in 695 plate appearances last year. Moving away from Marlins Park to a hitter-friendly stadium in Miller Park should only help his production at the plate, and we could see a huge breakout season from the young left-handed hitter.

Here’s what RW23 projects from Yelich in 2018:

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 672 580 .300 .386 .502 .889 .203 .382 20.2% 11.8% .349 26

RW23 absolutely loves Yelich, predicting that he’ll set career marks in numerous categories. This may be a little optimistic — especially considering what I’ve seen from ZiPS — but it’s encouraging nonetheless.

Lorenzo Cain will be in his age-32 season when 2018 commences, and while Yelich figures to be more valuable with the bat, Cain projects to be the better outfielder. He saved five runs in 2017 after posting a 29 DRS in 2015 and 2016 combined. Cain is known for his speed, and even if that skill begins to decline with age, there’s reason to believe it won’t be that big of a problem. He immediately helps the Brewers in every facet of the game, and his $80 million contract is fair shake for both sides.

Here’s what RW23 projects from Cain in 2018:

PA AB AVG OBP SLG OPS ISO wOBA K% BB% BABIP HR
RW23 610 553 .292 .350 .417 .767 .125 .334 17.6% 7.7% .338 14

Not surprisingly, RW23 is enamored with Cain as well. I didn’t include stolen bases in the table above, but RW23 has pegged Cain for 23 stolen bases, though I see that number being considerably higher.

Now, I’ll have more on these two moves early next week — like where this leaves Domingo Santana and Brett Phillips — but I wanted to at least get RW23’s projections out to the world tonight. And the projections are optimistic as heck, so take them with a grain of salt. But also be excited as Brewers fans.

And the last thing I wanted to say is this: The Brewers aren’t throwing everything into the ring for 2018. No. These two moves are intended to, yes, help the team win this season, but to also set them up for a run of numerous competitive seasons. Stearns knows exactly what he’s doing, and he’s nowhere close to being done yet. Expect them to add a starting pitcher very soon.

4 thoughts on “Quick take: Projecting Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain

  1. Ken

    What a great time to be a Brewers fan! I’m old enough to remember the glory days in the early 1980’s as well as the tough years that followed, and there have only been a couple days in Brewer history that really compare to the day Cain/Yelich were acquired…the Ted Simmons/Pete Vuckovich/Rollie Fingers trade in 1981(or early 82?) and the day they acquired C.C Sabathia from the Indians. Good times ahead!

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    1. Anonymous

      The Simmons/Vuckovich/Fingers trade was in the winter of 1980, heading into the 1981 season. Fingers won the AL MVP and Cy Young in 81, and the Brewers made the playoffs for the first time in their history after the strike-shortened split season.
      I also have good memories of acquiring Shawn Marcum and Zack Greinke via separate trades in December of 2010. We had three opening day starters in our rotation, and the optimism in Milwaukee was through the roof. In retrospect, we gave up a lot for Greinke, but that trade solidified our role as World Series contender. I recall the Marcum trade was panned more at the time than the Greinke trade because we gave Toronto our top prospect (Brett Lawrie).

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  2. Anonymous

    How are the Brewers going for it when they acquired 2 guys with 5 years of control. This is called building or adding. The future is bright in Brewtown.

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    1. Justin Schultz Post author

      They’re going for the playoffs in 2018. And if you read the last paragraph of the article, you’d see I’m in total agreement with you. Additionally, Brent Suter was quoted as saying “We’re all in” during Brewers On Deck.

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