Christian Yelich and the Milwaukee Brewers brought hope to many a so-called small-market fanbase this week in coming to terms on a new nine-year, $215 million contract. It’s a 7-year extension on top of his current deal and could keep him with the Brew Crew until he is 37 years old.
It’s fair to say that, had Yelich continued his recent MVP-type form over his remaining seasons before hitting free agency, he could have made a lot more money. But by all accounts it was Yelich who sparked the talks.
“It’s a large sum of money and people are always going to ask the ‘what-if’s’ — did you leave [money on the table] or not? — but I play the game to win, and to be a part of a place that I feel comfortable and I take pride in representing. For me, this is that place.
“That’s how I made this decision. It wasn’t one that I took lightly. I spent a lot of time talking about it with my family and my representatives. At the end day, we felt that this was right.”Yelich, as reported on MLB.com.
There are two parts to the story, of course. One is in the Milwaukee Brewers stepping up to lock down a true franchise player, and you have to give some credit to their principal owner Mark Attanasio in being prepared to do this, as the team has ‘had a go’ in previous years such as in the CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke trades.
But the main story comes back to Yelich and what he wanted to do in being prepared to accept less money to stay somewhere he and his family are happy, in the knowledge that the money he will earn should still be more than he’ll never need.
It doesn’t mean other players are wrong to look at it differently and want to get top dollar at free agency. Because they have the fortune to play this great game for a living, it’s easy to overlook that for almost all players free agency is the first time they’ve had any say whatsoever in where they get to play their baseball.
Had Francisco Lindor ended up with the Dodgers or the Yankees as a prospect years ago, with no say himself on it, he wouldn’t have had to worry about a home-town discount on a contract extension. He’s hardly being greedy to think ‘if I was with another team I could get $100m more, so why not go to free agency in two years’ time’. However, the Yelich deal does add another factor to the situation.
We can all look askance at billionaire ownership groups coining it in and we should constantly hold them in suspicion when they start pleading poverty. But is it really true to say ‘every team’, including the Brewers, Indians, A’s and Rays can afford your Bryce Harper style $330m deal, or Gerrit Cole $324m? Maybe it’s not just carrying water for the owners in saying no, however, a multi-year deal such as Yelich’s ($215m with some deferrals) absolutely is possible for every single team.
If the player, such as Lindor, wants to get full market value then I’ve no issues with that whatsoever, but if you love where you are from a playing point of view and a personal point of view and they offer you $200m+ guaranteed, it’s a big decision to turn that down.
More on the White Sox, AL West, and NY Yankee injuries
I will be a complementing my Weekly Hit Ground Ball columns with a regular video series on our Oakland A’s UK YouTube channel looking at news from around the Majors, or as I like to refer to it, “The Other Lot”.
The videos will cover the main news story or comment piece written about here, the Yelich contract extension in this case, with some additional commentary on other topics that caught my eye from the past week.
Sometimes they will be pre-recorded productions, as with this debut episode, and sometimes they will be recorded as a live-stream on our YouTube channel on a Sunday morning. Subscribe to the Oakland A’s UK channel to be notified when new videos are published and when live-streams begin.
Here’s the first video, handily embedded below: