Cardinals Agree To $1 Billion Television Contract

The Cardinals have agreed to a new, 15-year contract that will continue to give FOX Sports Midwest exclusive rights to broadcast their games, reports Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The rights alone will guarantee the Cardinals more than $1 billion, according to Goold, who adds that the Cardinals will also receive a minority stake in the network that will add further revenue on top of that sum.

The new contract will span the 2018-33 seasons, according to Goold, so it won’t kick in for another few years just yet. However, the Cardinals will, on average, receive more than double the annual amount they’re earning on their current deal over the life of the new contract. As Goold reports, the Cardinals will profit $35MM from their current TV deal in its final season (2017), but the rights fees alone will provide the team with $55MM in revenue in 2018 (to say nothing of the equity stake). That sum will continue to escalate in each year of the contract, he continues. Goold spoke to Cardinals CEO Bill DeWitt Jr. about the agreement, who confirmed the deal but did not cite specifics.

“This does give us a great deal of stability over the next 15 years and does so in a market that has been shifting,” said DeWitt. “It has a nice increase in rights fees as well as the equity component and as a whole it will allow us to remain as competitive as we have been with our payroll, with our spending in the international markets, with our activity in amateur markets and other ways we have invested in development. We have certainty going forward.”

The Cardinals haven’t exactly been a team with limited spending capacity in recent seasons anyhow — they’ve averaged a $114.19MM Opening Day payroll over the past five seasons, per Cot’s Contracts — but the new television contract will allow them greater spending capacity on their roster and international signings if the team wishes. Goold writes that the deal gives them room to stretch the payroll for “the addition of at least one core player” and could make contract extensions for rising stars Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez and Trevor Rosenthal more feasible. (I’d add Kolten Wong‘s name to that mix as well.)

The Cardinals become the second mid-market franchise to sign a contract worth $1 billion or more this season, as the Diamondbacks inked a $1.5 billion deal back in February. Of course, the Phoenix market is notably larger than the St. Louis market, and Goold notes the discrepancy, pointing out that the D-Backs play in the 11th-largest market in baseball, while the Cardinals are in the 21st-largest.

Suffice it to say, while the Cardinals could augment their short-term roster in the coming 48 hours, a 15-year television contract that will immediately increase yearly revenue by as much as $20MM beginning in 2018 is far more impactful news for the team’s future. An official announcement of the deal is expected to come this morning, according to Goold.


Blue Jays Deal For David Price “Imminent”

11:28am: A deal sending Price to Toronto is “imminent,” Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets.

It’s unconfirmed, but rival execs expect Daniel Norris and Anthony Alford to be in the deal, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links).

11:17am: As Toronto emerges, other suitors seem to be falling back in the discussion. The Yankees “have tried” to join the discussion, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post, but it’s not clear they’re willing to include as much in the way of top prospects. The Giants are “pessimistic” of getting something done, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Meanwhile, the Dodgers have no plans of including Alex Wood — if they acquire him — in deals to any other teams, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com tweets.

11:05am: The Jays are “closing in” on a deal for Price, Heyman tweets.

10:58am: Toronto has emerged as a “strong favorite,” Heyman reports. A deal could come together quickly, he adds.

10:48am: The Blue Jays are making a “major push” to acquire star lefty David Price, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports on Twitter. Toronto has long been said to be pursuing one or more arms to bolster its staff, and the ace lefty would certainly do that and more.

While the presence of the Jays on the market for Price is not exactly unexpected, it’s notable that the team intends to be a serious contender for his services. Toronto already used several significant trade pieces to acquire star shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, and has been rumored to be discussing a range of options in that regard.

The Dodgers have frequently been mentioned as the most likely club to land Price, as Los Angeles still seemingly wants to add a top-quality arm after missing on Cole Hamels. But the Dodgers are still working to complete a complicated deal with the Braves and Marlins that would have major implications for the pursuit of Price. Other teams, too, remain potential challengers for the service of Price, one of the game’s most durable, highest-quality starters.

All said, Toronto’s participation in the market ought to drive up the ask on the veteran southpaw. The Jays still have several highly appealing young pieces, including young starters such as Daniel Norris and Aaron Sanchez, that could theoretically be dangled, though it remains unclear what kind of package Toronto will offer — let alone what Detroit is looking to accomplish in a trade.


Medical Concerns Derailed Carlos Gomez-Mets Deal; Brewers Still Plan To Trade Him

11:45pm: Agent Scott Boras adamantly denied that anything is wrong with Gomez from a health standpoint. Via Rosenthal (Twitter links): “Carlos Gomez has never seen a hip doctor and has never had a hip issue in his playing career. Anyone who suggests that is inaccurate and baldly misrepresenting the truth of the player’s condition.”

11:17pm: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets that it was actually the Mets who backed out of the deal due to concerns over Gomez’s hip. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News also hears that Wheeler’s elbow was not the issue (Twitter links).

11:13pm: Tonight’s near-trade of Carlos Gomez to the Mets in exchange for Zack Wheeler and Wilmer Flores has fallen through, and Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports (via Twitter) that Milwaukee’s concerns regarding Wheeler’s medicals caused the deal to collapse. The Brewers, though, are still planning to trade Gomez by Friday’s trade deadline, Nightengale adds.

Wheeler, of course, had Tommy John surgery this spring, so it stands to reason that the Brewers weren’t comfortable with his progress (or perhaps the lack thereof) since the operation in March. By multiple media accounts, the names in the trades were agreed upon, though there was no official announcement of the deal from either club.

Mets GM Sandy Alderson said following tonight’s game that a trade “will not transpire,” so it seems that if Gomez is to be traded, it will be to a team other than the Mets — the organization that originally signed him back in 2002.

Gomez should still hold widespread appeal around the league, as he’s earning $8MM in 2015 and has a more-than-reasonable $9MM salary for the 2016 season. Among contending clubs, the Orioles, Astros, Pirates and Giants have all been linked to outfield upgrades over the past few weeks. The Angels, too, have been in the market for an outfield upgrade, though they’ve added three new players this week (Shane Victorino, David Murphy and David DeJesus), so they’re likely out of the mix for outfielders at this time.

And, while the trade ultimately won’t be pushed across the finish line, it does speak to the Mets’ willingness to deal from their current big league roster in order to upgrade the offense. Flores has been a regular contributor to the team in 2015, though they do have internal replacements including Ruben Tejada, Dilson Herrera and Matt Reynolds. A report from Yahoo’s Jeff Passan earlier in the night also mentioned that Juan Lagares‘ name had come up as a potential piece for the Brewers t acquire, further demonstrating a willingness on Alderson’s behalf  get creative in order to augment his offense. The Mets have also been prominently connected to names such as Justin Upton, Jay Bruce and Gomez’s Milwaukee teammate, Gerardo Parra.



Pirates Acquire Joe Blanton

The Pirates announced that they’ve acquired right-hander Joe Blanton from the Royals in exchange for cash considerations. Blanton had been designated for assignment by the Royals earlier this week despite generally solid numbers, and he’ll join the Pirates’ roster tomorrow.

Blanton made a nice comeback to the Majors this season after spending the 2014 season away from the game. He’s pitched quite well overall for the Royals, working to a 3.89 ERA with 8.6 K/9, 1.5 BB/9 and a 48.4 percent ground-ball rate in 41 2/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen. Blanton’s 90.8 mph average fastball is the fastest of his career, though one can imagine that’s partly attributable to the fact that 11 of his 15 appearances have come in a relief role.

The veteran Blanton seems likely to be asked to help the Pirates in a relief capacity, but he could also emerge as an option at the back end of their rotation eventually. Gerrit Cole, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano have all turned in excellent seasons thus far, but each of Jeff Locke, Vance Worley and Charlie Morton has posted an ERA above 4.00.


Astros Designate Roberto Hernandez

The Astros designated righty Roberto Hernandez for assignment to open a roster spot for Jed Lowrie, tweets Brian McTaggart of MLB.com.  Lowrie will start tomorrow for the Astros at third base, after recovering from May thumb surgery.

The Astros signed Hernandez to a minor league deal in February, and he made the team out of spring training.  His contract was worth $2.65MM.  Hernandez, 35 in August, posted a 4.36 ERA, 4.5 K/9, 2.8 BB/9, 0.96 HR/9, and 51.9% groundball rate in 84 2/3 innings, including 11 starts.


Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays, Yankees, Astros Show Initial Interest In David Price

David Price has generated significant early interest since the Tigers declared themselves open to offers earlier today. Several teams have already emerged as early leaders to get the ace lefty.

Per Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter), the Dodgers, Giants, Blue Jays, and Yankees are all in contact with Detroit and make up the “four main teams” in the mix. Jon Morosi of FOX Sports, who was first to note that the Blue Jays had made contact on Price, adds the Astros as a team that is in discussions (Twitter link).

Especially with Johnny Cueto and Cole Hamels now off the market, Price is undoubtedly the best pitching trade piece remaining. He was dealt at the last minute in 2014 for an interesting package in a three-team deal, and now seems destined again to be one of the most-watched names in the final two days leading up to the deadline.


Astros, Padres “Gaining Steam” In Trade Talks; Houston Focused On Ross

7:30pm: The Astros are more interested in Ross than they are in Cashner, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

6:01pm: The Astros and Padres appear to be making some headway when it comes to a trade involving some of San Diego’s pitching, reports Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle. One source told Drellich that things are “gaining steam,” though multiple people close to the situation told him that there’s nothing “in the red zone” just yet.

Drellich lists Craig Kimbrel, Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner as possible fits for the Astros, and it should also be noted that the Padres have reportedly been pushing to unload the remaining three and a half years on James Shields‘ backloaded four-year, $75MM contract. ESPN’s Jayson Stark recently reported that rival teams expect the Padres to pull off some form of “huge” trade, though there’s nothing yet to indicate the magnitude of a potential swap between Houston and San Diego.

Houston is still interested in Cole Hamels, Drellich hears, but they don’t expect to acquire him. The Rangers are regarded as the favorite, Drellich writes, and all of these moving pieces could align to give us an indication as to what’s to come in the next two days. Not even an hour ago, Jeff Wilson of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that talks between the Padres and Rangers regarding Cashner and Ross had cooled off. As Stark tweets, that may serve as another sign that Texas is the favorite for Hamels. It would make sense, then, to hear that the Rangers’ talks for Cashner and Ross have slowed just as the Astros’ talks with the Padres — perhaps for one of those two pitchers — are beginning to gain traction.


Tigers Preparing To “Reboot,” Listening On Price, Cespedes

The Tigers are lining up for a sale, as Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports that the team is telling rivals that they are “rebooting.” GM Dave Dombrowski confirms that he’s ready to listen on all of the team’s pending free agents, as Jason Beck of MLB.com tweets.

That means that Detroit is willing to sell David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, and other pieces. “We’re only going to make a trade if we think it makes sense for us,” said Dombrowski (via Beck, on Twitter). “But we think [the reboot] gives us a chance to restock our club.”

Needless to say, adding Detroit’s expiring veteran assets will have a significant trickle-down effect. Price will land atop the market for starters, possibly impacting the Phillies’ efforts to move Cole Hamels as well as the value of other arms. Clubs interested in corner outfielders can now look to Cespedes as well as Justin Upton and Carlos Gonzalez (among other options).

Those two aren’t the only veteran Tigers that should draw interest. Closer Joakim Soria becomes one of the more appealing rental relief arms, while Rajai Davis could be a nice piece (especially in high-leverage situations down the stretch and in the post-season) for a team that has a need in center field. Catcher Alex Avila can also be had, and Alfredo Simon may make for a useful swingman piece.

Price’s market, of course, is where most of the immediate interest will go. As Stark writes, teams like the Cubs, Dodgers, Blue Jays, and Yankees have been waiting on other pitching moves to see whether Price would be available. Now that he is, expect his market to heat up quickly.

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Angels Sign Wesley Wright To Minor League Deal

The Angels have signed left-hander Wesley Wright to a minor league contract, according to a tweet from Wright’s representatives at Reynolds Sports Management. The veteran reliever will report to Triple-A Salt Lake for the time being.

Wright, 30, began the season with the Orioles after agreeing to a one-year, $1.7MM free agent contract. He spent the 2014 season with the Cubs and enjoyed good success as a member of the Chicago bullpen, making him a somewhat surprising non-tender. Last year, Wright pitched to a 3.17 ERA with 6.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 52.1 percent ground-ball rate while holding opposing lefties to a .273/.321/.273 batting line.

In 2015, though, Wright has been plagued by a strain and inflammation in his left shoulder. He spent three months on the disabled list before being activated and promptly designated for assignment. Wright tossed just 1 2/3 innings for the Orioles this year but has been a reasonably effective relief pitcher for much of his career.

Dating back to 2011, Wright has a 3.27 ERA with 8.4 K/9 against 3.2 BB/9 in 168 innings of relief between the Astros, Cubs, Rays and Orioles. He could emerge as a left-handed relief option for the Angels, who currently have lefties Cesar Ramos and Jose Alvarez pitching well in the bullpen.


Rangers Designate Wandy Rodriguez For Assignment

The Rangers announced (via EVP of communications John Blake) that they have designated left-hander Wandy Rodriguez for assignment. Lefty Alex Claudio and righty Jon Edwards were promoted from Triple-A as well, with right-hander Phil Klein being optioned to the minors.

The DFA of Rodriguez is somewhat of a surprise, as the left-hander has been a mostly solid rotation piece for Texas this season and has even been rumored as a potential trade candidate. The DFA, though, certainly doesn’t eliminate the possibility of a trade. It does allow potentially interested parties, though, to show limited interest with the hope that Rodriguez will eventually become a free agent and be available for the league minimum.

The 36-year-old Rodriguez signed a minor league deal with the Braves this winter but didn’t make the team’s rotation in Spring Training despite quality numbers. (That spot went to fellow lefty Eric Stults.) Rodriguez worked to a 3.20 ERA with a 50-to-23 K/BB ratio in 64 2/3 innings over his first 11 starts this year, though he’s recently been hit extremely hard in a pair of outings. Rodriguez has a 9.97 ERA over his past 21 2/3 innings, although the vast majority of that damage came in a pair of brutal outings where he combined for 15 runs in five innings. He’s mixed in a pair of very solid five-inning starts in that time as well.

Overall, Rodriguez has a 4.90 ERA with 7.5 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a 41 percent ground-ball rate in 86 1/3 innings this season. He’s never been a hard thrower, but he’s creeping ever closer to the “crafty lefty” territory, as his 2015 heater is averaging just 88.4 mph. Recent meltdowns notwithstanding, Rodriguez has a fairly palatable 4.27 FIP and 4.28 xFIP on the season, so one would think that he could still be a passable back-end starter for a team with a top-heavy rotation.


Pitching Notes: Leake, Astros, Pirates, Angels, Johnson, Royals

The sudden availability of David Price will shake up the starting pitching market, of course, but there are plenty of less significant, but still notable developments to cover. Let’s take a look in at a few notes on the pitching market.

  • Reds starter Mike Leake is among the many pitchers still being considered by the Blue Jays, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets. Per Rosenthal, the club is looking at a variety of arms at a similar level of ability, with the hope of getting the best value out of a deal.
  • The Astros are “monitoring” the market for bullpen pieces, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. They have given at least some thought to quality arms like Craig Kimbrel, Joaquin Benoit, and Francisco Rodriguez. Houston is also still involved on Cole Hamels, though it still doesn’t seem that they are terribly likely to get him, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • The Pirates, meanwhile, seem to be looking more at middle relief options, per MLB.com’s Tom Singer. And the Angels are also looking to add another arm to their pen, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez reports on Twitter. Los Angeles is looking for something on the order of last year’s addition of Jason Grilli says Gonzalez. Presumably, the same holds for Pittsburgh, which sent Grilli out west last summer in exchange for Ernesto Frieri.
  • With many teams (including those just noted) looking to add arms, the Braves are “getting lots of play” on righty Jim Johnson, Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets. Johnson isn’t too expensive, has been solid this year, and has obviously spent a lot of time in high-leverage situations, so it stands to reason that he’ll be moved to a contender looking to build out their stable of relief arms.
  • The Royals asked the Tigers about Price before acquiring Johnny Cueto, but moved on to the righty when they learned that Price was not yet being marketed, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star tweets.
  • Wondering who the teams listed above could target? MLBTR recently listed the starters and relievers most likely to be available at this year’s trade deadline.

Red Sox Designate Jemile Weeks For Assignment

The Red Sox have infielder Jemile Weeks for assignment in order to clear a spot on the roster for Josh Rutledge, tweets Alex Speier of the Boston Globe. Rutledge was acquired in the trade that sent Shane Victorino to the Angels.

Weeks’ stay on Boston’s big league roster was brief, as he was only recalled earlier this week. He picked up nine plate appearances with the Red Sox, collecting three singles in that time and also striking out twice.

The younger brother of Rickie Weeks, Jemile is a former 12th overall draft pick (Oakland, 2008) that hasn’t seen his career pan out after a promising rookie campaign in 2011. That year, he appeared in 97 games with the A’s and batted .303/.340/.421 with 26 doubles, eight triples, a pair of homers and 22 steals. He’s hit just .226/.307/.311 in 574 plate appearances between the A’s, Orioles and Red Sox since that time.


Reactions To The Jonathan Papelbon Trade

The Nationals entered the trade market yesterday to add Jonathan Papelbon from the division-rival Phillies. Before moving on Papelbon, the Nationals looked into both Craig Kimbrel of the Padres and Aroldis Chapman of the Reds, Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post reports on Twitter. But the team moved on when it was quoted an asking price of two top young players (from among Trea Turner, Michael Taylor, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Joe Ross). It’s no surprise, then, that the team moved on to Papelbon — who was a “backup” trade target, per the report.

Here’s more on the deal:

  • In exchange for Papelbon (and for keeping $4.5MM of his contract), the Phillies will get righty Nick Pivetta. Per Kiley McDaniel of Fangraphs, the righty has a good arm and frame that bodes well, though he has the upside of a back-of-the-rotation starter. If he can’t reach that level, though he figures to be a middle relief piece down the line. ESPN.com’s Keith Law largely concurs in that assessment, noting that Pivetta lacks significant upside. It’s easy to see, then, how the deal made sense for both clubs: the Phillies could use a mediocre starter at the back of their rotation, while the Nationals have enough current and future options to make that a largely unnecessary luxury.
  • The move generated some controversy, owing to the fact that the club reportedly promised to use Papelbon as its closer despite the presence of high-performing reliever Drew Storen. The thrice-deposed 9th-inning man declined to say much about the move, but did indicate that he and his agent are having ongoing discussions with GM Mike Rizzo. As Svrluga writes in an even-handed take on the matter, it’s clear that Storen did not deserve to be demoted out of the ninth inning. But the club also had a valid desire to bolster its late-inning relief corps, and adding Papelbon was a good piece for the team to add. As he notes, teams have increasingly recognized the value of filling high-leverage innings with quality arms, regardless of who actually takes the closer role.
  • Jonah Keri of Grantland writes that the trade checks plenty of boxes for the Nats at a reasonable cost. In spite of the off-field risk involved with replacing Storen, it seems to Keri like a worthwhile gamble.
  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports argues that the Nationals have shown a lack of confidence in replacing Storen. He says that the move might be more palatable had the club added a clearly superior pitcher, such as Aroldis Chapman or Craig Kimbrel, but suggests that bringing in a similarly effective reliever was something of a slap in the face to a player that the Nats drafted and developed.
  • From my perspective, adding Papelbon says less about how the Nationals feel about Storen than it does the club’s desire to maximize the impact of a bullpen addition with a minimal expenditure of resources. As Rosenthal has observed (Twitter link), Washington seemed reluctant to add significant salary obligations to this year’s payroll at the deadline. It likely would have cost more in salary, prospects, or both, to add a different arm that could simply be slotted into a set-up role. And the team may well have ascribed some value to adding a player with Papelbon’s late-inning and big-game experience, whether or not that was tied to Storen’s own spotty track record in very limited postseason innings. It’s true that Storen did not “deserve” to lose his role, of course, and that he’ll sacrifice some earning capacity through arbitration with the lack of save opportunities. But we see such moves happen all of the time from clubs looking to save money, make upgrades, and otherwise improve their short and long-term position. While the clubhouse aspect and Storen’s feelings certainly should factor in the team’s decisionmaking, then, I’m not sure there’s a compelling fairness point to be considered.

Latest On Padres: Baez, Kimbrel, Deadline Strategy

2:15pm: The Padres have engaged in at least some discussions with the Cubs regarding young infielder Javier Baez, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports. Chicago is said to be pursuing pitching, and we heard last week that they had exchanged ideas with San Diego.

Meanwhile, the Friars seem increasingly likely to hold onto Craig Kimbrel, reports Heyman. The team lost a significant suitor when the Nationals got Jonathan Papelbon, and San Diego has been unable to convince the Yankees to give up shortstop prospect Jorge Mateo in a deal.

11:40am: The Padres continue to explore a wide array of options on this year’s trade market, though they’ve yet to make a move. Multiple reports suggest that the team is still weighing its ultimate approach, perhaps considering major moves while also preparing for a more modest sell-off.

Jayson Stark of ESPN.com hears that rival teams expect San Diego to be “super active” and pursue a “huge deal” of some kind (via ESPN.com’s trade deadline page), with the team said to be considering deals on controllable rotation pieces such as James Shields, Andrew Cashner, and even Tyson Ross.

[RELATED: Rangers Discussing Ross, Cashner With Padres]

The inclusion of those names on the market could even reduce the Phillies’ leverage with regard to Cole Hamels negotiations, executives with other clubs tell Stark. The Phillies, of course, are said to be asking teams with interest to get their bids in on the lefty today.

Meanwhile, Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Padres GM A.J. Preller could “take a more measured approach” in selling than he did in compiling assets over the winter. San Diego wants “substantive” value in its deals, per the report.

Efforts to move Shields have not resulted in promising offers of yet, says Lin, and he could become an August trade piece. And while San Diego is indeed discussing both Cashner and Ross, it seems hesitant to part with them. There is some belief within the organization that larger-scale moves could wait for the winter.

The club does still appear likely to move its short-term assets, per the Union-Tribune. There is still at least some possibility, though, that it will hold onto Justin Upton and make him a qualifying offer, with talks not yet having produced a substantial enough return, though it seems rather likely that something with come together on the slugger. Other pieces fairly likely to be dealt include Ian Kennedy, Joaquin Benoit, and Will Venable.


Mets-Brewers Deal For Carlos Gomez Collapses

9:58pm: The deal is off and won’t occur before the deadline, Mets GM Sandy Alderson tells reporters including Anthony DiComo of MLB.com (via Twitter).

EARLIER: The Mets have acquired Carlos Gomez, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.  He says the deal is done pending physicals. In exchange for Gomez, the Mets will send right-hander Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores to Milwaukee, according to Bob Klapisch (Twitter link).

Now 29 years old, Gomez cut his teeth in the Majors as a 21-year-old with the Mets. Traded to the Twins as part of the 2008 Johan Santana blockbuster, Gomez spent two seasons in Minnesota and delivered mixed results before being flipped to Milwaukee in a one-for-one swap that sent J.J. Hardy to Minneapolis. His first few seasons with the team resulted in more of the same underwhelming results, but Gomez broke out into superstar territory with an explosive 2012 campaign.

That 2012 season saw Gomez bat .260/.305/.463 with a career-high 17 homers and 39 stolen bases to go along with his elite center field defense. Since that time, Gomez has paired a .276/.336/.475 batting line with some of the game’s best center field defense to deliver more than 16 wins above replacement for the Brewers.