Just a week after Christian Yelich’s agent said that his client’s relationship with the Miami Marlins was “irretrievably broken,” the Marlins have dealt Yelich to the Milwaukee Brewers. The Marlins got a pretty good haul in return (it only took Miami four major trades this offseason for that to happen), including outfielder Lewis Brinson, who was ranked as the Brewers top prospect.
As if that wasn’t enough, about two hours later, the Brewers agreed to sign free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five year/$80M contract. Cain, who began his career in Milwaukee, slots in as the every day center fielder. The newly acquired Yelich would join him in left field, while Domingo Santana (fresh off of a 30 HR season a year ago) would be in right field. That’s a pretty darn good outfield, and could rank as one of the league’s best. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription required and recommended) suggests moving Ryan Braun to first base where he could face LHP, which would give Eric Thames a rest. Last season, Thames slashed a very nice .265/.382/.551 against RHP, while slashing a gruesome .182/.270/.394 against LHP. Braun, on the other hand, slashed .264/.355/.516 against LHP last year. Braun is also a career .331 hitter against LHP. I believe that the oft-injured Braun could greatly benefit from a part-time role in a position that takes less of a toll on the body.
This leaves outfielders Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips as odd-men out. They could trade Santana for a pitcher straight up and keep Braun in the outfield. The Brewers have one glaring need: starting pitching. Now, to me they have two options: they can sign a starter or they can dangle the aforementioned Broxton and Phillips in a package for a starter. Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi of the Rays make sense, as would Zack Greinke of the Diamondbacks or Marcus Stroman of the Blue Jays. This is a really wonderful problem to have for Brewers GM David Stearns.
Let’s look at Tampa Bay. The Rays would be able to deal Chris Archer or Jake Odorizzi in return for Phillips, Broxton, and likely another prospect (perhaps shortstop prospect Mauricio Dubon or catching prospect KJ Harrison). This allows Corey Dickerson to be the Rays primary DH, with Phillips starting in left field. Phillips impressed in limited time in the majors last year, slashing .276/.351/.448. Broxton would be the fourth outfielder. On the Milwaukee side, Archer or Odorizzi instantly slot in the top of the rotation.
As for Toronto, they can pretty much do the same thing. Phillips would be the everyday left fielder, relegating Steve Pearce and Ezequiel Carrera to utility roles and Broxton could platoon with Curtis Granderson in right field. However, instead of Dubon or Harrison, the Brewers would likely have to give up Top 100 Prospect Corbin Burnes, a RHP with quality stuff and a plus fastball. Likewise with Archer or Odorizzi, Stroman would easily be the staff ace in Milwaukee.
Then there’s the interesting case with the Diamondbacks. Zack Greinke is owed $138.5M over the next four seasons, so Arizona would have to eat roughly half of that monstrous contract in any trade, which hurts their return in terms of prospects. So for the Brew Crew, they could include one of Broxton or Phillips, and possibly pitching prospect Marcos Diplan, while taking on half of Greinke’s contract and allowing him to return to Milwaukee (where he lead the Brewers to the NLCS back in 2011).
There is one trade destination that I failed to mention: Cleveland. Anthony Castrovince of MLB.com has suggested that the Brewers have interest in hurler Danny Salazar. Salazar is a bit of a risky option, in my opinion. He has only pitched a full season once in his career. He has never thrown 200 innings, and has a career 3.82 ERA, which is pretty middle of the pack. Mind you, he has done this in a weak AL Central and would be moving to a more competitive NL Central where he would face the dominant Cubs and Cardinals multiple times per year. The suggested trade is Domingo Santana for Danny Salazar, straight up. Personally, the power that Santana offers is too important to give up for a pitcher who, in my opinion, is a major question mark. I like any of the other options for Milwaukee more than Salazar.
One last option for the organization is free agency. The Brewers may be looking at the free agent pitching market, most likely towards Yu Darvish and Alex Cobb, hoping that their asking prices go down as the market has been stagnant all offseason. In that case, they could swap Phillips and Broxton to another team for a top bullpen arm.
There are a lot of ways that the Brewers can go with this outfield surplus; with all of them having really positive outcomes. This is a big time for the franchise as they can be on the cusp of winning in the near future. If they play their cards right with the hand they’ve currently been dealt, their moment could come fairly soon.
By: Chris Perkowski