On January 25, 2018 life for the Brewers changed dramatically, as well as the game of baseball. As you all might recall, the Brewers locked up a trade for a player on the rise with the name of Christian Yelich. You might have heard of him. At the time they had locked up the future MVP until 2021 with a club option in 2022. Life changed once again on Tuesday March 3rd when a report that was first announced by Ken Rosenthal, that the Brewers were on the fringe of giving Yelich an extension that would keep him in Milwaukee until 2028. When news finally went official on Friday, Milwaukee would have once again changed the game of baseball forever.
Throughout the excitement of it all one question remained. How did the Brewers pull it off? How did the Brewers take what should be a 2 time MVP and sign him to a deal that stayed below $250 million? It was no secret that if Yelich would have entered free agency he could have received a contract north of $350 million.
It’s fair to start out by saying that this isn’t the first time the Brewers pulled off an extension like this. When Ryan Braun was at a similar age, he signed a 5 year, $105 million contract extension, that also included a $10 million signing bonus. That contract also did include deferrals, similar to the Yelich extension. When Braun signed his contract he was coming off an MVP season and could have done very well in the free agent market (obviously without the PED situation). Needless to say this contract is very similar to what Yelich just signed the other day. In addition, the whole thought process behind both extensions seem very similar. When Braun signed, Brewers owner Mark Antanasio made it seem as though Ryan expressed a lot of interest in continuing and finishing his career in Milwaukee, which seemed to also be the case with Yelich.
It is no secret that ever since Yelich came to Milwaukee he has done nothing but embrace the city.
Christian has always talked about how comfortable he is in Milwaukee saying, “It has just clicked.”
So for Christian, was a deciding factor in signing his contract based so much off of the city and it’s team, that he took a major pay cut for it? It seems that the answer to that question is very much so yes. When asked if he feels that he took a hometown discount, he quickly denied that. He talked about how he believed in the Brewers culture and organization, and also how he believes this is a place that he will win.
After all of that one question remains, what does this mean for future extension candidates? The Brewers have Keston Hiura, Brandon Woodruff, Adrian Houser, and other very talented young players that are under club control. As a “small market” team, the traditional thinking is that once those players are out of club control, they would enter the free agent market and sign for way more their past team could ever pay for. However, Mark Antanasio is proving that theory wrong, proving that these smaller teams can still pay for their super hero every once and awhile. In addition to that, Christian Yelich may have proved to some of those young kids that a surplus of money isn’t necessarily everything. Throughout the press conference Yelich continued to touch on how comfortable he is in Milwaukee and how he has really found a home. Although there is no way to tell now, these young players could have been impacted on seeing a guy they look up to, sign for not only the money, but for comfortability and love for the city.
Going back to the original question that started this whole discussion, how did the Brewers pull it off? It’s no question that it helps to have an incredibly humble player that plays for more than just money. However, something else stands out. That is the incredible flexibility with owner Mark Attanasio. Stearns has talked many times on how Mark is extremely flexible when it comes to the payroll, and is willing to put a little more money into the team if it is deemed necessary. At the end of the day, sometimes that’s all it takes to put a team over the edge.