This contract arises even as the Brewers reach the final guaranteed year of their deal with long-time star Ryan Braun. Yelich had already supplanted him as the face of the franchis. Now, the younger outfielder will step into the top salary slot for the team.
Things can always change — lest we forget, the Brewers have at various points dangled Braun in trade talks in recent years — but Yelich seems destined to play in those sweet new Milwaukee unis for much of the rest of his career.
How to understand this deal? The 28-year-old Yelich was already under team control for three remaining seasons under the prior extension he inked as a member of the Marlins, so there wasn’t a huge rush. But the Brewers obviously felt now was the time to act if they were going to keep him around at a palatable price tag.
With seven years and (approximately) $187.25MM in new money, this deal provides Yelich with an eye-popping salary by any reasonable standard. But it’s a clear discount as compared to the values we saw in the free-agent market this winter. Consider that Anthony Rendon just sold the same portion of his career (age 30-36 seasons) for $245MM.
Great as Rendon is, he hasn’t matched Yelich in productivity. But the Brewers earned their discount by promising the money in advance — thus taking on quite a bit more risk. The most direct comparable, perhaps, is the early 2018 deal reached between the Astros and Jose Altuve when he was still two years away from the open market. Altuve only received five additional guaranteed years but got a heftier annual salary in his agreement (five years, $151MM).
It isn’t hard to understand the math for the team. On the player side, it’s hard to resist the temptation of a potential future bonanza. But Yelich was a long ways from the open market and quite a lot can change in the interim, as his freak late-2019 knee injury shows. There’s also some off-field value for both sides in striking this sort of bargain in advance. Yelich gets the comfort and assurance of knowing where he’ll play. No doubt he’ll also find it easy to strike whatever marketing deals he might like. And the club gets to promote the player as one of the franchise’s all-time greats while plotting its long-term roster moves around his presence.
So … win-win? Or is there a different way we ought to view this pact? (Poll link for app users.)