On January 25th of this year, the Milwaukee Brewers acquired outfielder Christian Yelich from the Marlins for four prospects, including top prospect Lewis Brinson. At the time, many criticized the Brewers for this trade. They claimed that someone who was going to hit .270 with 20 home runs wasn’t worth a top 20 prospect. That the Brewers would regret this trade forever. Instead, this may go down as the greatest trade in Brewers’ history, as Yelich is making the critics eat their words.
A change of scenery has benefited Yelich dramatically. He is on pace to set career highs in batting average (.318), home runs (31), OPS (.955), and Wins Above Replacement (5.7). Yesterday, Yelich hit for the cycle for the SECOND time this season. That’s simply astonishing. How could this get any better for the Brewers? Well, Yelich is controlled through 2021 on a very team friendly contract, so Milwaukee has him for another three seasons at a price well below market value. With his emergence, it’s no surprise the Brewers are 86-65 and will almost certainly get the first NL Wildcard spot, while they still remain in distance of the first place Cubs at 2.5 games back.
Meanwhile, Brinson no longer looks like the star he was made out to be. The 24-year-old is hitting just .203/.243/.354 and has just a 0.1 WAR. He also has an atrocious 107-15 K-BB ratio. Since he’s already 24, he’s running out of time to make adjustments. Sure, he almost certainly will improve from this season and still could be an everyday player. However, Yelich is only two years older and is an NL MVP candidate while Brinson is making a case for the National League’s least valuable player.
What lessons should we learn from this trade? Well for starters, this should remind us that it’s impossible to critique a trade at first. Yelich looked like just an everyday player, while Brinson had the ceiling of a star. However, the roles have now been dramatically changed and the Brewers can now look forward to a bright future with Yelich while the Marlins have no future at all with a very weak farm system. If the Brewers listened to the critics and didn’t make this trade, they’d probably be a .500 team. However, with Yelich, the Brewers now are a lock for the playoffs and could very well end up hoisting the World Series trophy. Even if they don’t, more years of Yelich playing at an MVP level while Brinson continues to struggle will make this look like one of the greatest trades in MLB history for the Brewers. Congratulations to Brewers General Manager David Stearns. No matter what the future holds for him and the Brew Crew, he’ll have his name associated with this trade forever.