Free agent center fielder Lorenzo Cain agreed to a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers on Thursday, taking one of the best all-around talents off the board in a winter during which his market was slow to materialize, a source familiar with the deal told Yahoo Sports.
It comes just one hour after the Brewers announced a trade for Miami Marlins’ outfielder Christian Yelich for four prospects, headlined by outfielder Lewis Brinson and infielder Isan Diaz.
The 31-year-old Cain, ranked sixth in Yahoo Sports’ Ultimate Free Agent Tracker, was the first of the Kansas City Royals’ free agent class to seek riches elsewhere. His five-year, $80 million deal will bring the Brewers a versatile, athletic outfielder to a now crowded Milwaukee outfield. The deal was first reported by The Athletic.
Cain will play in center, and while he hasn’t won a Gold Glove, his defense stood out from the moment he debuted with Milwaukee in 2010. He was traded to the Royals as part of the Zack Greinke package the next year, and though he was slow to blossom – Cain didn’t play more than 115 games until his age-28 season – his talent was unquestionable.
Offensively, Cain is more jack of all trades than master of any. He has hit at least .300 three of the last four years. At 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, he looks as though he should have more power than he does. He still possesses gap-to-gap power, and combine that with his well-above-average speed and Cain’s slugging percentages belie his low home run totals. His .300/.363/.440 season last year included 15 home runs and 26 stolen bases, and as judged by Baseball-Reference.com, only 10 players have more than his 20.5 wins above replacement since 2014 – a list that includes Mike Trout, Josh Donaldson, Jose Altuve, Mookie Betts, Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, Adrian Beltre, Kevin Kiermaier, Anthony Rizzo and Joey Votto.
Cain is older than almost all of them, and his reliance on his wheels, in part, scared a number of executives. Much of his value is derived from him playing center and playing it well, and with Cain’s 32nd birthday in April, it’s a risk to think he will last more than half the contract at a new position.
The Brewers weren’t spooked by that or the fashion in which Cain moves about the clubhouse postgame, which can best be described as old man without his walk. That’s what trainers and treatment are for. Cain’s job will be to hit balls and catch them, and there aren’t many better options out there to do that.
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