Over the span of an hour the Brewers traded a pair of top-100 prospects for Christian Yelich and then signed Lorenzo Cain for $80 million over five years. Those are a couple of bold moves, and just the kind that will energize the only fanbase in the league that would rather stand around in the parking lot than actually go into the stadium.
These are the kind of moves that will put the rest of the NL Central on notice. The Brewers mean business. They’re not fooling around. They’re going for it. They’re not messing around anymore. They…oh, who gives a shit?
You’ll read a lot of hot takes about that was “an hour that changed the NL pennant race.” It might have been an hour that changed the NL Wild Card race, but I don’t think the teams in the NL with an actual shot at winning the World Series are quaking in their boots.
Yelich is a good young player. He’s only 25, he has doubles power, good but not great speed and short term is clearly a better player than the top prospect the Brewers traded for him, Lewis Brinson. Cain is a good not so young player. And if they keep Ryan Braun (and since his 10 and 5 no-trade protection kicked in last year they really have no choice), they’ll upgrade in center with one of these guys, and the other one will play right and replace 25-year-old Domingo Santana. I’m sure they’ll try to flip Santana for a pitcher, but honestly, if I were them I’d have traded for Yelich and hung up on Cain and left Santana in right. The fact that they didn’t says to me they know they aren’t signing Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta, so they’re going to trade for a starter instead.
Do these acquisitions narrow the gap between the Brewers and Cubs? Sure they do.
But that gap is larger than most people think it is. The Cubs managed to win the NL Central by six games despite fucking around for half a season. The Brewers were over their skis last year getting a season from Eric Thames that he’ll never be able to duplicate (Jesus Aguilar, either), and one from Travis Shaw that isn’t likely to be his true level. But, I’m sure that Eric Sogard will put up another OPS that’s 132 points above his career average, too.
Someday, Brewers fans will look back at Cain’s career and be able to say, we had him in the organization for 11 years and he had his best seven years in Kansas City.
All that needs to happen this season is for the Cubs to play the first 90 games again while sporting the biggest hangover in the history of professional sports (which is what you get when you break the longest championship drought in sports history), and then the Brewers can still finish a half dozen games behind them.
If you project Yelich in center and Cain in right next season, the plucky “young” Brewers will start an older player than the Cubs at every position but shortstop, where Addison Russell is a year older than Orlando Arcia.
The Cubs are still the best team in the Central. But Brewers are now clearly better than the Cardinals, and nobody in these parts minds that.