MARYVILLE, Arizona -- The Brewers acquired Christian Yelich in January of 2018. Come November of that same year, Yelich had won the NL MVP and helped get the Brewers to within one game of the World Series after having the most wins in the National League. It only took a few months, but Yelich was perhaps the most beloved person in Milwaukee.
The feeling was mutual, too.
Yelich loves being a Brewer so much that he didn't want an opt-out clause when he signed his monster contract extension this week, which wason Friday in a press conference room in Arizona. He's accepted that he's probably never going to hit free agency in his career and he was granted a no-trade clause. He is a Brewer for life without even so much as coming close to testing free agency. That's how mutual the love is.
Nine years and $215 million help for sure, but Yelich likely could have plowed past that on the open market in a few years. Instead, he's never hitting free agency and it was his idea.
"We're sitting here today because of a player who wanted to make a commitment to a franchise, to a community and because of an owner who was willing to go to unprecedented lengths to make it happen," Brewers general manager David Stearns said.
"In the two years Christian has played for us, we've built an intimate relationship and have been able to discuss things openly," owner Mark Attanasio said. "He approached us to discuss an arrangement that would enable him to retire as a Brewer."
Attanasio got together with Yelich's agent Joe Longo for lunch on Halloween and, Attanasio quipped "so I guess it was trick-or-treat and it turned out to be a treat."
You simply can't stress enough that Yelich was three years from free agency and he approached a small-market club in hopes of getting what amounts to a lifetime deal without any opt-out clauses and with no-trade protection. He doesn't want to ever leave.
He brought it up over and over, sometimes unsolicited, during his press conference. A sampling of the things he said about playing for the Brewers follows, just picture him saying it with a huge smile on his face because that's how it happened.
"I've only been here for two years but it feels like a lot longer. Ever since I first came here, it's felt like a natural fit. It's a place that's great for myself and my family. I've formed a great connection with the community and my teammates. Everyone from ownership to the front office on down."
"It felt right to me."
"I didn't have aspirations to play anywhere else. We were able to work things out to where we won't have to worry about that anymore."
"The fan base embraced me from day one. For me it's just a really special place to play."
"This is the place I wanted to play. I realized that I had three years before free agency, but above all else I really meant it when I said I wanted to finish my career as a Milwaukee Brewer."
"This organization is a family. They take great care of their players, their employees, everyone. This is an amazing fan base and place to play."
"It's been a great experience from day one. It's felt natural."
Let's not forget to sing the praises of Attanasio here. He's the one paying a pretty penny to keep Yelich, though he said he initially approached the matter as a fan.
"What Brewers fan wouldn't want to find a way to keep Christian here for the rest of his career?" he rhetorically asked. "What everyone sees on the field is an MVP, but we've got that same MVP when it comes to leadership, what kind of a teammate he is and the selfless things he does in the community."
Everything just clicked from the start in this love affair.
"Christian's relationship with our team, our community, our city is unique," Stearns said. "It's very rare that a player and a team's identities become so intertwined in such a short period of time."
It is. Moving forward, though, there's something to consider with a comment Stearns made.
"Christian has the opportunity to further cement his legacy as one of the best players in Milwaukee baseball history."
Milwaukee baseball history includes the Braves before they moved to Atlanta. That's a legacy that has the likes of Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn and more, not to mention Brewers greats like Robin Yount, Paul Molitor and Yelich's teammate, Ryan Braun (who along with Lorenzo Cain sat in on the press conference).
Where might Yelich end up on a list like that? Well, he's already posted the fourth- and seventh-best WAR seasons in franchise history in 2018 and 2019, respectively. He won an MVP and finished second, despite missing the last several weeks of the season in the case of the latter. He's still only 28 years old and has a long window of prime left in the tank. He's the only Brewers player ever to lead the league in all three triple-slash categories, leading with a .329/.429/.671 last season. He's won the batting title both years.
He can't get to Hank, I'll venture to estimate, but it's possible everyone else in Milwaukee baseball history ends up behind Yelich once the dust settles on what appears to be an in-process stellar career.
He's got the talent, as we've seen the last two years. He's also got a mutual love affair with the city of Milwaukee. As much as you love him, Brewers fans, that's how much he loves you back. His contract says so. Now just sit back and enjoy him the way he does you.