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Thanks to the Milwaukee Brewers for remembering that teams usually try to get better over the course of an offseason.
The Brewers took advantage of their positioning (a middle-class team with room and reason to add) by pulling off a one-two combo. First, they traded four prospects to Miami for Christian Yelich. Then, they signed Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million deal, which is this winter’s biggest free agent contract by far After watching the Cardinals load up at their weak spots to make a run at the NL Central, the Cubs now have to pay more attention to Milwaukee.
These moves naturally lead everybody to wonder what David Stearns has in mind after crowding his outfield on purpose, but I’m guessing he saw his former organization just win a World Series by drastically reducing strikeouts and decided the whiffs of Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips are just too much for one outfield.
Yelich was a popular idea among those who either had 1) grown tired of the farm-building phase of the White Sox rebuild, 2) grossly overestimated how much talent the Sox have on hand, or 3) grossly underappreciated what it would take to acquire him.
The trade illustrates the kind of dent it would have put in the White Sox farm system if the Marlins wanted to build outfield depth. Lewis Brinson is firmly between Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert in prospect rankings, and closer to the former if you believe he has healthier days ahead. There isn’t a good equivalent for Monte Harrison in the Sox system — in terms of stock, it’d be Blake Rutherford if he has an encouraging 2018.
If the Marlins would take pitching, perhaps the Sox could fill in a different secondary player, along the lines of Alec Hansen or Dane Dunning. But the Sox don’t really have anybody matching Harrison in terms of trajectory or skill set, so in order to match the position composition of that package, the White Sox would have to outbid it. That didn’t make sense at this point.
It makes sense for the Brewers because Yelich is an upper-echelon outcome for either of their outfield prospects, and then they went and signed Cain to take care of the other spot. The Cain deal may be questionable for its length with a 32-year-old, but after watching him torment the White Sox with his array of skills, I wouldn’t underestimate his chances of earning the deal.
And hell, even if I weren’t all that impressed by Cain, I’d just be happy to see another team with detectable designs on winning more games than they did last year.
A few leftovers from earlier discussions…
*Speaking of prospect rankings, Keith Law put four White Sox prospects — Jimenez, Michael Kopech, Robert and Alec Hansen — in his top 100. To be more precise, they’re all in his top 50. He didn’t have any Sox in the back of his list, or in his “just missed” write-up.
*Speaking of prospect rankings, FutureSox released its top 30.
*I’ll be at Baderbräu tonight after SoxFest stuff concludes to drop in on this event. Register and print that page for 15 percent off your tab. It’s at 25th and Wabash, and I hope to see you there.