Christian Yelich stakes future to Brewers with $215M, 9-year deal

MARYVALE, Ariz. — Making sure Christian Yelich was a Brewer for life, while allowing the team some payroll flexibility, were two factors in negotiations as Milwaukee officially announced its new nine-year deal for the former MVP on Friday.

The extension will almost assuredly keep Yelich, 28, from ever reaching free agency in his career.

“I made two decisions in my life that I felt were right at the time,” Yelich said at a news conference Friday announcing the deal. “Chances are I’m probably never going to see free agency. That’s just how my career went.”

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Previously, Yelich had signed a long-term extension with the Miami Marlins before being traded to Milwaukee prior to the 2018 season. With the Brewers, he won the NL MVP in 2018 and finished second in the 2019 voting, despite missing the final month of the season with an injury.

Yelich’s new deal will encompass the final two seasons of his previous contract and tack on seven more seasons. The total package is for $215 million and includes a no-trade clause and no opt outs.

“This is what you call an ‘opt-in,'” Yelich’s agent Joe Longo quipped.

The structure of the deal includes $4 million a year in deferrals in the seasons where his contract is maxed out at $26 million. In other words, the Brewers will never pay more than $22 million to Yelich in a season, allowing them the flexibility to build around him. The deferrals begin the year after the contract runs out.

“That was part of our discussions, internally,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said. “How can we make that happen? Knowing Christian is going to be here for the better part of a decade helps us plan and map out how we’re going to remain competitive for that time period. That was a priority of Christian’s.”

In signing the deal, which averages just less than $24 million, its possible Yelich left some money on the table. Several other elite stars, including Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Nolan Arenado, have signed for more annually.

“This is the place I wanted to play and to be,” Yelich said. “I realize I had three years before free agency, but above all else, I meant it when I said I wanted to finish my career as a Milwaukee Brewer. Not only that, but be part of winning teams as a Brewer.”

The sides began talking last Halloween when Longo and owner Mark Attanasio met for lunch. Yelich even attended two face-to-face sessions, including one during spring training as the sides closed in on a deal.

“With today’s agreement Christian has the opportunity to further cement his legacy as one of the best players in Milwaukee baseball history,” Stearns said. “It’s very rare a player and his team’s identity become so intertwined in such a short period of time. It’s happened here.”

Said Yelich: “I’m really glad I’m able to spend the foreseeable future here. I’ve only been here for two years, but it feels like it’s been a lot longer.”

Yelich credited teammate Ryan Braun for providing advice and support during the process. Braun is beginning the final season of an extension he signed in 2011, also with years remaining on his deal at the time.

Braun attended the news conference along with teammate Lorenzo Cain and manager Craig Counsell.

Both sides admitted it was a complicated and complex negotiation.

“A transaction over $200 million in size, from the corporate world I come from, this would be considered fast,” Attanasio joked.

Yelich will play in his first spring game on Friday after recovering from a fractured kneecap suffered in September.

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