The Milwaukee Brewers were the talk of baseball’s hot stove Thursday as they made two major moves signaling they plan to be playoff contenders this year.
First the Brew Crew acquired star outfielder Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins, parting with a quartet of prospects (including three former Wisconsin Timber Rattlers) to get their new power hitter. Then they signed centerfielder Lorenzo Cain — also a former Timber Rattlers player — to a five-year, $80 million deal.
Drafted by the Brewers in 2004, Cain played 15 games with the Timber Rattlers five years later as he rehabbed back from a severe knee injury suffered in Double-A earlier in the season. He went 10-for-52 (.192) with four doubles, three runs batted in, and nine walks for the 2009 T-Rats.
Cain was traded to the Kansas City Royals in December 2010 as part of a six-player deal that saw pitcher Zack Greinke go to the Brewers. He was named the 2014 American League Championship Series MVP — he batted .533 in the four-game series — and finished third in the 2015 AL MVP race after batting .307 with 16 HR, 72 RBI and 28 SB in 140 games. Last season he batted .300 with 15 HR, 49 RBI and 26 SB in 155 games for the Royals.
Yelich played left- and center-fields during his five years in the majors with the Marlins. He batted .282 with 18 HR, 81 RBI and 16 SB in 156 games last season. To get him, the Brewers parted with their top prospect, outfielder Lewis Brinson, and three former Timber Rattlers players: middle infielder Isan Diaz, outfielder Monte Harrison, and RHP Jordan Yamamoto.
Diaz played for the Timber Rattlers in 2016, batting .264 with 20 HR, 75 RBI and 11 SB in 135 games. He played in High-A last season, batting .222 with 13 HR, 54 RBI and 9 SB in 110 games with the Carolina Mudcats. He is currently ranked by MLB Pipeline as the 86th-best prospect in baseball. (Brinson, who did not play in the Midwest League, is ranked 13th overall. He made his MLB debut for the Brewers last year.)
Harrison played 184 games with the Timber Rattlers over the past three seasons. Once a top Brewers prospect, he was derailed by injuries in 2015 and 2016 before putting together a solid 2017 season split between the Midwest League and the High-A Carolina League (.272 BA, 21 HR, 67 RBI, 27 SB in 122 games). Last year he batted .265 with 11 HR, 32 RBI and 11 SB in 63 games with the Timber Rattlers, raising his cumulative MWL stats to a .218 batting average with 19 HR, 80 RBI and 25 SB.
Yamamoto pitched for the Timber Rattlers in 2016, going 7-8 with a 3.82 ERA, 152 strikeouts and 31 walks in 134.1 innings (27 games/18 starts). He fared better in the Carolina League last year, going 9-4 with a 2.51 ERA, 113 strikeouts and 30 walks in 111 innings (22 games/18 starts) for the Mudcats.