Cain now has the right to explore other opportunities, but it remains to be seen if he plans to continue his career. Shortly after DFA, Cain met with reporters and talked about his career (Twitter link with video from Adam McCalvey from MLB.com). The 36-year-old expressed his pride in overtaking his ten years of MLB service, and noted that “He put his body down a lot over the years” and he “Definitely ready to rest. He used a similar tone in a chat with a former royal family reporter who beat journalist Jeffrey Flanagan yesterday, saying:We must admit that it is very nice to be at home“(Twitter link).
If this is the end of Cain’s playing days, he will walk away as one of the best players of his generation. A former pick in the 17th round, Cain overcame his low recruiting status to make it into the majors with The Brewers by 2010. Milwaukee flipped him to the Royals the following offseason, packing him with Jake OdoreseAnd the Alcides Escobar And the Jeremy Jeffress to ground Zack Greenk.
The blockbuster played a huge role in the course of MLB history during the 2010s. Kane and Escobar became key members of the 2014-15 back-to-back pennants, while Odorizzi eventually flipped to Rays in the James Shields/Wade Davis switch. Cain played for Kansas City from 2011-17, and settled into the club’s primary quarterback position by 2012. He reached .289/ .342/ .421 while playing excellent defense and passing 120 bases over this extension. He received the first All-Star pick of his career in 2015 and finished third in the AL MVP vote after publishing the .307/.361/.477 streak that year.
After that race in royal blue, Cain arrived at free agency for the first time. He signed a five-year, $80 million guarantee to return to Brewers in January 2018. This came within days of Milwaukee’s acquisition of the Brewers. Christian Willich, a pair of tent pickups helped start a stretch of at least four consecutive games in a playoff. Yelich ended up being the most influential addition, being MVP during his first season in Wisconsin, but Cain was a classy player in his own right in 2018.
That year, Cain hit 308/.395/.417 and stole 30 bases. He received his second All-Star nod and placed seventh in the NL MVP vote. He only posted a .260/ .325/ .372 streak during the second season of that deal, but he was awarded the long-awaited Gold Glove for his work at the center. After withdrawing from most of the 2020 campaign due to coronavirus concerns, Cain returned in a more limited role last year. He played at a roughly average level in the league in 78 games, but he has sparred this season. DFA came to Milwaukee after Cain posted a streak of .179/ .231/ .234 through 156 board appearances.
Cain’s contract remains on this year’s Milwaukee books. The club will owe him the remainder of his $18 million salary for the final season of his deal. If he signs elsewhere, another club will only pay the pro-rata portion of the league’s minimum $700,000 for any time spent in the major leagues.
While Kane has hinted at retirement on multiple occasions in recent weeks, no official announcement has been made about his future. If he decides he’s interested in continuing his career, his defense and respected presence at the club will surely provide him with at least secondary chances in the league. If Kane finishes playing, he will be off his .283/ .343/ .407 career during parts of 13 major league seasons. FanGraphs estimated their career at about 30 wins over substitution, while the Baseball Reference had about 38 wins. By the end of this season, Cain will have amassed just over $100 million in earnings between refereeing salaries and his contract with Milwaukee.
Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.