Christian Yelich took to Milwaukee so much he staked his long-term future to the Brewers.
“I’ve said many times that I’ve only been here for two years, but it feels like it’s been a lot longer,” the two-time NL batting champion said Wednesday after finalizing a US$215-million, nine-year contract. “Ever since I came, it’s felt like just a natural fit, a place that is great for myself and my family, and formed a connection with the community, my teammates, everyone from ownership and front office on down.”
His new deal added US$187.25-million over seven seasons to the remaining US$27.75-million Yelich was guaranteed as part of the US$49.57-million, seven-year contract he signed in March, 2015 with Miami.
Yelich was dealt to the Brewers in January, 2018, and he won the NL batting title and MVP award as the Brewers reached Game 7 of the NL Championship Series. He added another batting championship and finished second in the MVP vote last year, when his season was cut short by a broken kneecap on Sept. 10. The Brewers reached the playoffs in consecutive seasons for the first time since 1981-82, but lost the NL wild-card game after wasting a ninth-inning lead against Washington.
If Yelich keeps playing at this level, and had he waited until becoming a free agent after the 2022 season, he likely would have commanded far more.
“Christian is everything you could want as the face of a franchise — from his incredible performance on the field, to his leadership as a teammate, to his dedication to the community,” Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said in a statement.
The 28-year-old outfielder had been guaranteed US$12.5-million this year, US$14-million in 2021 and a US$1.25-million buyout of a US$16-million team option for 2022.
His new agreement includes the same amounts for 2020 and 2021, then adds US$26-million annually from 2022-28, of which US$4-million a year is deferred. The deal contains a US$20-million team option for 2029 with a US$6.5-million buyout, which, if exercised, would make the contract worth US$228.5-million over 10 years.
Attanasio said contract talks with Yelich began over lunch last Halloween. Yelich was not thinking about the potential of free agency,
“I don’t have any regrets about it. It’s just one of those things in the path my career took,” he said.
Yelich acknowledged teammate Ryan Braun, who stood nearby, for talking with him through the process of committing to the Brewers. His eyes welled up with tears when he spoke about the people who helped him.
“There’s a lot of people that go into today,” Yelich said. “I have no doubt that I wouldn’t be here without their contributions and their efforts. That’s what makes today special. There’s been a lot of people that have made my life a priority over theirs.”
Yelich leads the major leagues over the past two seasons with a .327 batting average and is second in on-base percentage (.415), slugging percentage (.631) and OPS (1.046).
Yelich was in the lineup as the designated hitter in his spring training game debut Friday against San Francisco.
“It’s been a while. I’m anxious to start getting out there and just get back to playing baseball again with my teammates and preparing for the season,” Yelich said.