By Ross Sutton
This offseason has seen very little free agent action, but there has been an active trade market. This has led to a couple of teams, most notably the Marlins, deciding to start a rebuild, making it likely that more of their top talent will soon be traded away for prospects. Christian Yelich is currently one of the most talented, up-and-coming players in the game and his name has been thrown around a lot this winter in trade rumors. That being said, here are my thoughts on where the biggest fish left in Miami might end up.
The new ownership group of the Miami Marlins is clearly committed to a total rebuild as they have already traded away top talents of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon. This has led to Christian Yelich telling the Marlins that he would prefer to be traded and play for a team that can contend. Yelich is a very interesting trade candidate as he is about to enter the prime of his career and is under team control through 2022, earning only $58.25 million during that time. This means that hypothetically, he could be the guy the Marlins decide to build a competitive team around. This also creates a larger market for Yelich as it would make sense for a team to acquire him if they can win now, or a couple of years from now. Therefore, the Marlins do have some incentive to keep him around as the centerpiece of their future. But as Yelich has voiced his desire to play elsewhere, it might be better for the team to simply trade him away.
As one would expect, there is a lot of interest in a 26 year old player that is about to enter the prime of his career with an incredibly team friendly contract; but who is most likely to acquire Yelich? There have been a number of teams reportedly in on Yelich this offseason such as the Braves, Blue Jays, Giants, Nationals, Phillies, Rangers, Padres, White Sox and most recently, the Brewers. In my opinion though, the best fits are with the Braves or Brewers.
Many consider the Braves to have the best farm system in the MLB so they would have no issue coming up with the prospects to give to the Marlins in a deal for Yelich. The Braves are in the worst division in baseball as the only good team is the Nationals, who happen to be extremely good. Other than the Nats, the Phillies and Marlins are currently rebuilding and the Mets window to win the World Series seems to be closed. This leaves the Braves in a spot where they could win their division soon, especially if Bryce Harper decides to leave the Nationals after this season. Assuming they are not contenders this year, the Braves could have Yelich for 5 years at a relatively low cost during their projected window to be serious contenders. As long as they do not give up too many of their top prospects, this would be a fantastic fit for both Yelich and the Braves.
In a report released today by Craig Mish, the Brewers have shown “strong interest” in Yelich recently and have actually made an offer for him. Whereas the details of that offer are unknown at the moment, the Brewers also have a very talented farm system so they could definitely put together a package good enough for Yelich. Coming off of a pleasantly surprising 2017 campaign, the Brewers now have a window to win the NL Central for the next couple of years as the Cubs have regressed since 2016, the Reds are still in a rebuild, and the Pirates are just entering a rebuild. If the Brew Crew is able to pull off a trade for Yelich (likely giving up one or two of their outfielders that can contribute at the major league level) and could find a way to sign a top starting pitcher that is still available like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta, they would be set up quite nicely to compete with the Cubs and Cardinals for the division crown in 2018 and beyond.
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