On Tuesday, reports surfaced that the Milwaukee Brewers and Christian Yelich had agreed to a long term contract extension. Now that the details are out, what can we take away from all this?
While pretty much every Brewers fan was hoping that the team could sign superstar outfielder Christian Yelich to a long-term extension to essentially keep him in Milwaukee for the rest of his career, not everyone was expecting it to get done, and even fewer were expecting it to get done this soon.
Many people, ourselves and Adam McCalvy included, thought a Yelich extension would more likely happen next offseason, when Yelich would have just one guaranteed year left with the option year for 2022. However, both sides were ready and willing to get it done now.
A franchise record contract like this raises some important points. Here are a couple key takeaways from this contract.
1. Money Isn’t Everything For Yelich
As a very young player, Christian Yelich signed a seven year, $49.5MM deal with the Miami Marlins, opting for security, and giving up potential future earnings. If it wasn’t for that deal, Yelich would’ve reached free agency this past offseason, and probably sign for $30+MM per year. After his breakout in 2018, it was clear that Yelich was going to be underpaid for the remainder of that contract.
Knowing that he won’t be getting paid what he’s worth from 2018 onward, it would’ve been reasonable to assume Yelich would want to maximize his payday for the rest of his career, which would’ve meant testing free agency in 2022.
Instead, Yelich opted to sign another seven year contract, in addition to the two guaranteed years he had remaining, and will stay in Milwaukee this time. His $27MM AAV in those seven years are likely less than what he would’ve earned in free agency, meaning Yelich left more money on the table.
In the NFL, over the past few years Tom Brady of the New England Patriots has taken a lower salary than what he could demand because he wants the Patriots to be able to afford to sign better players to surround him with. With Yelich taking less money than he could’ve rightfully demanded, he’s also giving the Brewers more flexibility to sign better players around him in the future.
Signing one early extension to what amounted to be a discount is one thing, but doing it a second time is something else entirely. It’s clear money isn’t everything for Christian Yelich. Some players like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado were focused solely on how much money they could get on the market, while Yelich has a completely different approach.
What is most important to Yelich, is fit and comfort.
2. Yelich and Milwaukee Are A Perfect Match
For a guy who grew up in the Los Angeles area and played the first part of his career in Miami, you wouldn’t think Christian Yelich’s personality matches up perfectly with a Midwestern city like Milwaukee. But somehow, it does.
While Yelich is a superstar player and is willing to market himself across the country and be the face of MLB’s marketing campaigns, he doesn’t seem to desire the glitz and glamour of playing in a large market.
Over the past two years, Yelich has gone from pretty much not knowing anything about the city of Milwaukee, to falling in love with it, and he’s willing to make a long term commitment to the team and the city. For all intents and purposes, the Brewers got down on one knee and proposed, and Yelich said yes. Now all that’s left is literally putting a ring on it. (Please!)
Yelich has raved about the city and Brewers fans, and he loves them just as much as the fans love him. He’s a bit quieter, down to earth, and has a strong work ethic. His personality fits with a city like Milwaukee perfectly.
Brewers fans have been waiting for a guy like this for such a long time. Even with Ryan Braun, while he embraced the city as his second home, it never really seemed like a perfect fit personality-wise. With Yelich, it just seems right.
Yelich has gone to Bucks games, participated in the NBA dunk contest with Pat Connaughton, and has invested in a real estate rebuilding project in downtown Milwaukee. Yelich isn’t just here to go about his business, he’s become an active member of the community, and he did that because he wanted to, not because he had to do so for a Brewers-related event.
3. The Brewers Can Plan Their Long-Term Future Now
During this past offseason, the Brewers did not go after many long-term contracts in free agency. The longest deal was for three years with Josh Lindblom, that guaranteed him less than $10MM over the life of the deal. Most of the contracts with free agents were one year deals with an option for 2021.
Brewers GM David Stearns knew that he couldn’t go after big name players like Josh Donaldson and sign anyone to long-term contracts at a high AAV without knowing what he was going to be paying Yelich down the road. It’s likely that both sides had discussions throughout the winter about an extension, but the final framework of the deal was still up in the air and there were probably many different frameworks discussed.
Now, Yelich’s future earnings have gone from an unknown variable to a known, unchangeable quantity. With that change, Stearns can budget and plan out the payroll for the next several years around Yelich’s salary. He can find perhaps one or two more large salaries to surround Yelich with, and will likely have a limit on how high he’ll go, but by knowing Yelich’s long term payroll commitment, Stearns will have a higher degree of confidence going into those negotiations and could be willing to go higher in those deals than he has been prior to this deal.
Before this deal was done, the Brewers didn’t know if Yelich was going to get $25MM or $30MM or close to $35MM per year. He could’ve asked for $35MM and rightfully so, but instead Yelich took a deal that will pay him around $27MM per year and give the Brewers flexibility to add more players around him.
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This deal is a win-win for Yelich and the Brewers, and there’s plenty of good things to come from this agreement.