The Brewers are closing in on a contract extension with outfielder Christian Yelich, reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. It’s expected to be a seven-year contract worth more than $200M for the Paragon Sports client, per Rosenthal, who notes that it’s unclear whether the deal supersedes Yelich’s current contract or tacks on seven new years. However, ESPN’s Jeff Passan tweets that the deal will run nine or more seasons, and considering Yelich is already under control for another two guaranteed seasons, it’s perhaps likeliest that the new deal will indeed cover seven (or more) additional guaranteed years.
Yelich, 28, was already under club control for $12.5M in 2020 and $14M in 2021 — plus a $15M club option ($1.25M buyout) for the 2022 season. Those salaries came under the terms of Yelich’s previous seven-year, $49.57M deal, though; the newly proposed arrangement would obviously catapult him into the game’s elite in terms of annual rate of compensation.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the deal, in its totality, would check in at around $215M over nine years with a mutual option for a 10th season. With Yelich already guaranteed $27.75M through 2021, that’d put the new deal at around seven years and $187.25M in new money, depending on the final numbers. The preexisting club option year will be “torn up” and replaced by the new extension, tweets MLB Network’s Jon Heyman.
Of course, Yelich has more than proven worthy of that level of investment since being traded over from Miami in a lopsided deal that sent Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, Jordan Yamamoto and Monte Harrison to the Marlins. Yelich had cemented himself as a well above-average player in Miami, but the former No. 23 overall pick and top prospect erupted with an MVP season in 2018 and an MVP runner-up in 2019. In two years with the Brewers, Yelich has won a pair of batting titles, posting a combined .327/.415/.631 slash with 80 home runs, 63 doubles, 10 triples and 52 steals (in 58 tries). The 2019 season saw Yelich lead the league not only in batting average but also in on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
That outstanding 2019 campaign ended with an injury — specifically a fractured kneecap suffered when Yelich fouled a pitch into his shin. That might’ve cost him a second consecutive MVP Award — he and eventual winner Cody Bellinger were neck-and-neck at the time of the fracture — but the Brewers clearly don’t have much in the way of concern on potential lingering complications.
In looking for recent comparables, there are some definite parallels with Mike Trout, who also signed what amounts to a career-spanning contract when he was already signed for another two seasons. Yelich’s deal falls well shy of the 10 years and $360M in new money secured by Trout a year ago, although that’s not really a surprise. Great as Yelich has become, Trout had a superior track record (as he does to everyone else in the game). He was also entering his age-27 season when he put pen to paper, and he didn’t have an option on the contract that his new arrangement was overwriting. Had Yelich played out the remainder of his deal, he’d have needed to wait three years to reach market in advance of his age-31 campaign.
Nolan Arenado, too, bears a quick mention. Like Yelich, he’s an elite talent who inked a mammoth extension in advance of his age-28 campaign, tacking seven years and $234M onto his previous one-year, $26M deal. Arenado, however, was only a season away from reaching the open market, so it’s not surprising that his annual value handily tops that of Yelich.
From the Brewers’ vantage point, the Yelich extension should buy some good will with a fan base that grew frustrated by the departures of Yasmani Grandal and Mike Moustakas. Milwaukee spent at a generally conservative rate this winter, eschewing lengthy free-agent deals and high annual salaries alike; the Brewers didn’t give out a free-agent deal longer than Josh Lindblom’s three-year pact and didn’t promise a larger annual salary than the $10M rate on Avisail Garcia’s two-year, $20M deal.
That aversion to long-term spending surely helped to pave the way for the impending Yelich mega-deal. It’s probably not a coincidence that the Brewers are making a commitment of this magnitude right as the previous franchise-record contract — Ryan Braun’s $105M extension — comes off the books. In fact, prior to the Yelich news, the Brewers only had $26.8M in guarantees on the books in 2022, which will be the first newly guaranteed season on Yelich’s contact. Milwaukee didn’t have a single guaranteed salary on the books for the 2023 season prior to this deal, either. So, while the overall weight of the contract is unlike anything we’ve seen the Brewers spend before, it should also be plenty manageable in terms of their long-term budget outlook.
You'll receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams.
Emailed daily. Always FREE!