MILWAUKEE >> Free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain and the Brewers finalized an $80 million, five-year contract today, one day after Milwaukee acquired centerfielder Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins for four prospects.
A 31-year-old former Brewers farmhand, Cain spent the past seven seasons in Kansas City and was part of the core group that won the World Series in 2015. He hit .300 with 15 homers, 49 RBIs and 26 steals last season.
He rejoins the Brewers, who dramatically remaking their outfield as they seek to dethrone the Chicago Cubs in the NL Central.
Cain’s deal is the highest for a free agent this offseason and the second-highest overall behind outfielder Justin Upton’s $106 million, five-year agreement to remain with the Los Angeles Angels.
“Lorenzo is a multifaceted player and proven winner who we are pleased to welcome back to Milwaukee,” general manager David Stearns said in a statement. “His combination of speed, fielding prowess and ability to hit for average will be a valuable addition to our lineup.”
Cain was drafted by the Brewers in the 17th round in 2004 and was traded to Kansas City as part of a deal that sent Zack Greinke to Milwaukee before the 2011 season. The career .290 hitter is also known for his defense, as is Yelich, who was acquired from Miami for four minor leaguers on Thursday.
Yelich and Cain report to a team that came one game short of making the playoffs last year. Milwaukee went 86-76 in the second full year of a rebuild, and the timeline for a return to pennant contention has accelerated.
Yelich, who turned 26 last month, will make $7 million this season in the third year of a $49.57 million, seven-year deal. Left fielder Ryan Braun has three years remaining on a $105 million, five-year deal.
Under baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, the Brewers will lose their third-highest pick in June’s amateur draft and the Royals will gain an additional pick after the first round as compensation.
More moves by Milwaukee are likely to address a now-crowded outfield. Last year’s right fielder, Domingo Santana, could be an attractive trade possibility after the 25-year-old hit .278 with 30 homers.
“It’s possible,” Stearns said Thursday when asked about considering more deals. “I think we’re always exploring trying to get better.”
Keon Broxton and Brett Phillips, two other outfielders known for defense, could also be trading commodities.
The Brewers, who signed free agent pitchers Jhoulys Chacin and Yovani Gallardo last month, still might be in the market for a starter. Right-hander Jimmy Nelson is expected to miss the start of the season because of a shoulder injury.
Cain and Yelich both played center last season, and it is unclear how they will align at Miller Park. Yelich won a Gold Glove as a left fielder in 2014.
Braun was limited to 104 games last year because of calf and wrist injuries. He has played the last two seasons in left field, the primary position in his career, following a two-year stint in right.