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Free Agency is the Answer

On January 22nd, the San Francisco Giants signed Austin Jackson to a two-year deal. Jackson has yet to turn thirty-one-years-old, and been worth 16.5 WARP over his nine-year career. He was worth 1.9 WARP over 318 plate appearances last season, yet he signed for just $6 million to be the Giants’ starting center fielder.

The Milwaukee Brewers are coming off an 86-win season and trying to add to that success. Despite what appears to be one of the most favorable free agent markets in recent history, David Stearns seems to be turning to the trade market for improvements. In this discounted market, Stearns would be mistaken going to the trade route rather than spending in free agency.

The Brewers are rumored to be in trade talks with the Miami Marlins for Christian Yelich.

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>Source : Brewers have put together a trade offer &amp; have shown strong interest Marlins OF Christian Yelich. Other teams remain in the mix.</p>&mdash; Craig Mish (@CraigMish) <a href=”https://twitter.com/CraigMish/status/955907465538822144?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>January 23, 2018</a></blockquote> <script async src=”https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8″></script>

Yelich is the most valuable piece on the trade market. He’s barely twenty-six-years-old, and under a $43.3 million contract through 2021 with a $15 million team option for 2022. He’s been worth 15.8 WARP in four-and-a-half major league seasons. Yelich is a borderline superstar on an extremely team-friendly contract.

Yelich’s talent level and contract situation not only makes him the most coveted piece on the trade market this offseason, but he’s also one of the most valuable assets in the league period. He’s going to garner a haul.

A trade for Yelich like starts with one of the Brewers young outfielders, Domingo Santana or Lewis Brinson, both of which are under favorable contract situations of their own. Santana or Brinson alone won’t be nearly enough to acquire Yelich. A hypothetical trade will likely cost one of the two outfielders and probably two of the Brewers top ten prospects or one of their top three prospects. Yelich’s age, skill, and contract allow the Marlins to ask for the world.

The Brewers have one of the strongest farm systems in the league, which is one of the reasons they are in on players such as Yelich and Chris Archer. Rather than blowing up the farm system Stearns has spent the past few seasons building, he has the option of going to the free agent market to find outfield and pitching improvements.

The Brewers ended the last two seasons with the lowest payroll in the league after finishing with the 15th highest payroll in 2014, according to Cots Baseball Contracts. In other words, the organization should have money to spend.

The front office should be looking to add pieces to this young core coming up through the system, not shedding pieces to add talent. Especially when assets on the free agent market are to be had.

If the Brewers are set on improving center field, they should look no further than Lorenzo Cain. Cain is much older, not as talented, and would likely cost a bit more financially than Yelich. However, the veteran Cain wouldn’t cost anything in prospect loss, save a compensatory pick in this years draft. The Brewers could then use their deep outfield to trade for rotation or relief help.

There are plenty of options on the free agent market for Stearns to add to the starting rotation. Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb are just a few names who have yet to find a home. In Darvish’s case, he wouldn’t cost a compensation pick. The Brewers should be doing everything they can to add pitching in this market while they are still available. If all else fails and the team is desperate for pitching, then turn to the trade market.

There’s no reason to ruin what the Brewers have going, as far as their farm system goes. A farm system is something to build around. The Chicago Cubs won their first championship in 108 years by building and holding onto a strong farm system, and then adding veteran talent around them, most through free agency. The Brewers should be looking to go the same route, particularly in this team-friendly free agent market.

Although it’s tempting to jump the gun and acquire an Archer or Yelich, especially when you have the assets to make that possible, it’d be ideal for the Brewers to hold onto their prospects, stay out of the trade market, and build around their young prospects rather than using them as trade assets.


 

Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez, USAToday Sports Images

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