OK, So How Much Better Did the Brewers Get By Adding Christian Yelich?

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OK, So How Much Better Did the Brewers Get By Adding Christian Yelich?

Chicago Cubs

Tonight, the Milwaukee Brewers acquired one of the best *and* most valuable outfielders in all of baseball, Christian Yelich, from Miami Marlins.

Yelich famously asked for a trade earlier in the offseason, after he watched his front office deal away Dee Gordon (Mariners), Giancarlo Stanton (Yankees), and Marcell Ozuna (Cardinals), and tonight he got his wish. Unfortunately, it sent him into the NL Central.

Despite perhaps losing a tiny bit of leverage from his requested trade and the recent history of a tiny return for Ozuna from the Cardinals, the Marlins were able to snag two of the Brewers’ top prospects, including Lewis Brinson, as well as two other solid prospects. You can read more about the particulars of the deal and are immediate reactions here.

But, yes, despite losing some serious prospects, the Brewers got better in the short term without really sacrificing much in the long run. Yelich has been a 4.5-WAR player in each of the last two seasons and projects to offer at least as much value in Milwaukee next year. HOWEVER, as you know, you can’t simply add Yelich’s projections (which will get to in a hot second) to the Brewers’ final tally. After all, he’ll be replacing a player on the roster and whatever value that guy would’ve added in the playing time Yelich takes. With that in mind, let’s see by how much the Brewers may have just improved for 2018.

First, Yelich’s projections.

As a Miami Marlin, Yelich was projected (by ZiPS) to slash .281/.364/.436 next season with 17 homers and 17 stolen bases. Moreover, he projects to walk 11.2% of the time while striking out just 20.4%, all of which is good for a 113 wRC+ (that’s still very good, but I will point out that it would represent his lowest wRC+ since being promoted to the Majors).

Because Yelich can add quality (though not elite) outfield defense to his resume, his projected to WAR total for 2018 according to ZiPS is 4.2.

Before tonight, the Brewers outfield in 2018 was projected to feature Ryan Braun (115 wRC+, 1.9 WAR) in left field, a combination of Brett Phillips (80 wRC+, 1.5 WAR) and Keon Broxton (86 wRC+, 1.5 WAR) in center, and Domingo Santana (113 wRC+, 2.3 WAR) in right.

That combined center field projection, then, looks like about 3.0 WAR. Some of that would have showed up in the corners, too, but there will be some moving around with Yelich in the mix. In reality, then, you could argue the Brewers may have only added about 1-2 wins to their final season tally.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. For one, Yelich is a good bet to be even better than his projections, and he can provide a lot to a lineup as a leadoff hitter. In addition, while you certainly shouldn’t expect Broxton/Phillips to provide a combined 3 WAR in even more limited duty, they can spread that out across the outfield and still provide some value. Moreover, the addition could help the Brewers to optimize Braun’s and Santana’s deployment.

By the end of the season, I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that this addition ultimately adds something like 2-3 wins to the Brewers’ final record (though, admittedly, much of that is because I’m high on Yelich). So is this is a total nightmare for the Cubs? Eh.

According to FanGraphs, the Cubs are projected to win 92 games next season while the Brewers (before Yelich) were projected to win 75. Even if you get crazy with your individual projections and the Cubs don’t add another starter, the Brewers still have a lot of ground to cover.

On the other hand, their offseason isn’t over yet, and they still have quite a lot of players in the outfield and a reported offer out to Yu Darvish …

UPDATE: Oh, hey, the Brewers also signed Lorenzo Cain.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami