The last decade hasn’t necessarily been something to write home about for the Milwaukee Brewers. But it did start off on the right foot when they made it all the way to the 2011 National League Championship Series, where they eventually lost to the St. Louis Cardinals. That season the Brew Crew went 96-66, however, they endured a six-year dry spell where they failed to make the postseason. That drought ended in 2018 after they acquired Christian Yelich, who led them to an NL Central title, though they lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL Championship Series. The 2019 season resulted in a Wild Card berth for the club, but they lost in the one-game playoff.
Milwaukee has only made the postseason six times in franchise history, but three of those appearances were in the decade of the 2010s. Their recent success boils down to several moves the front office has made, most notably the blockbuster deal with the Miami Marlins which brought in Yelich. Mike Moustakas and hard-throwing lefty Josh Hader, who were both acquired via trades, also made a difference.
Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Milwaukee Brewers have made since 2010.
The Best Trade the Milwaukee Brewers Have Made Since 2010: Milwaukee Acquires Christian Yelich From the Miami Marlins for Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Jordan Yamamoto, and Isan Diaz (January 25, 2018)
The Brewers gave up a handful of prospects for Yelich, but it has been well worth it. In two seasons with the Brew Crew, Yelich has become one of the brightest stars in the game. In 2018 he was named the National League Most Valuable Player after hitting .326 with 36 home runs and 110 RBIs while leading Milwaukee to an NL Central title and a franchise-tying 96 wins. He took matters to the next level after the All-Star break, hitting 25 of his home runs in the second half of the regular season.
In 2018 and 2019 the 27-year-old led the NL in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS. He was also named a Silver Slugger in each of the last two seasons along with back-to-back All-Star Game appearances. Aside from his outstanding abilities at the dish, Yelich was also a serious threat on the basepaths, swiping 22 and 30 bags in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
He was always an intriguing player with the Marlins, flashing superstar potential from time to time. But it wasn’t until he got traded that Yelich really came into his own, especially from a power standpoint. The most home runs he hit in a single season with Miami was 21. As previously mentioned, Yelich slugged 36 in 2018. Last season he went deep 44 times. It’s pretty clear that he has found his home-run stroke.
Yelich had a 7.1 WAR last season, which was ninth in the majors. Without the former NL MVP the Brewers aren’t even making the playoffs the last two seasons. He has been a franchise-changing player for Milwaukee and by locking him up in March on a nine-year, $215 million deal, the Brewers have their vital piece to build around as they look to continue their resurgence in the NL.
Sure, they gave up a solid prospect in Brinson, who’s developing into a decent big leaguer with Miami while Yamamoto was called up last June and compiled a 4.46 ERA in 15 games. But there’s no doubting that Milwaukee has won this trade given Yelich’s mind-boggling numbers at the plate. This is, without a doubt, the best trade the Brewers have made over the last decade.
The Worst Trade the Milwaukee Brewers Have Made Since 2010: Milwaukee Acquires Zack Greinke and Yuniesky Betancourt From the Kansas City Royals for Lorenzo Cain, Alcides Escobar, Jeremy Jeffress, and Jake Odorizzi (December 19, 2010)
The Brewers gave up a lot in this trade for basically just Greinke; he was the headliner after seven very good years in KC. The righty did his job in Milwaukee, going 25-9 with a 3.67 ERA in 49 starts across a year and a half. Greinke played a huge part in the Brewers’ 2011 playoff success, winning every start at Miller Park. But he was traded to the Los Angeles Angels just before the 2012 MLB trade deadline with Milwaukee out of the playoff picture.
Now, even though Grienke pitched great for the Brewers, they traded away a lot of prospects for him. Little did they know that Cain and Escobar would turn into important pieces of a Kansas City team that would win a World Series just four seasons later.
In seven seasons with the Royals, prior to returning to Milwaukee before the 2018 season, Cain hit .289 while finishing third in American League MVP voting in 2015, the year they won the Fall Classic. He was a fan favorite and a wizard in the outfield, thanks to his tremendous athleticism, which allowed him to chase down balls in the alleys. At the plate, he was a fundamentally sound hitter who hit for average and could also go deep from time to time. Cain won the 2014 ALCS MVP for the Royals after hitting .533 in a four-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles. He was a lifetime .295 hitter for KC in the postseason, always showing up when it mattered most.
Escobar instantly became Kansas City’s everyday shortstop, spending the next eight years at the position. He was a lifetime .259 hitter in a Royals uniform while playing outstanding defense on a consistent basis. Just like Cain, Escobar was named an All-Star in 2015, as well. Escobar was never a great hitter for the Royals, rather a guy who put the ball in play so he could let his speed do the talking. He was a great baserunner, swiping 160 bases across eight seasons as a Royal. A defensive-minded shortstop with a great arm, Escobar was a mainstay for this team in the field, compiling a lifetime .976 fielding percentage.
Both of these players became valuable assets in Kansas City’s run to consecutive Fall Classics just a few years after this trade. Even if Greinke pitched better in Milwaukee and stayed around longer, this trade would’ve still been a loss because of Cain and Escobar’s importance to the Royals.
Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.