Ever since the Marlins agreed to the deal to send Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees in early December, fans around the league knew it was just a matter of time before Miami scraped away all the excess salary it could in an effort to begin a massive rebuild. Not long after the New York trade, Dee Gordon was shipped off to the Mariners, and about a week after that deal, Marcell Ozuna was sent to the Cardinals.
Now that much of the dust has settled on the Marlins’ roster, there has been one particular player—26-year-old outfielder Christian Yelich—who has been campaigning for his own personal one-way ticket out of town.
Yelich’s agent, Joe Longo, has recently taken to the media to share Team Yelich’s thoughts, basically hoping that all of the outcry will somehow lead to Miami’s front office being convinced to move the former Gold Glove winner.
“They have a plan,” Longo stated. “I respect that plan, but that plan shouldn’t include Christian at this point in his career. He’s in the middle of the best years of his career, and having him be part of a 100-loss season is not really where we want to see him going. The relationship between player and team is irretrievably broken. It’s soured. He’s part of the old ownership regime. The new ownership regime needs to get new parts into this plan and move forward, and he needs to get on with his career where he’s got a chance to win.”
Whether or not this exhibition will actually work and get Yelich out of Fishtown remains to be seen, but what we do know it that there are a high number of teams across the league who have keen interest in the California native. The Dodgers, Blue Jays, Angels, Padres, Diamondbacks and Phillies are all rumored to have reached out to Miami in possible trade talks. There is even some buzz about the Braves gaining momentum in discussions with the Marlins; however, the Fish are asking that Atlanta’s top organizational prospect, Ronald Acuna, be the centerpiece of the deal.
Yelich’s salary is still inside the team-friendly part of his contract, as he will earn an even $7 million for the upcoming season—a figure the Dodgers would undoubtedly be comfortable in handling. After that, he’s scheduled to earn $9.75 million in 2019, $12.5 million in 2020 and $14 million in 2021—certainly sums Los Angeles would be comfortable in dishing out as its payroll appears to be decreasing perennially.
Primarily as a center fielder last season, the left-handed hitting Yelich hit .282/.369/.439 with 36 doubles, 18 long balls, 81 RBI and 16 stolen bases. His benchmark campaign to date came in 2016 when he was mainly left fielder. He won a Silver Slugger Award that year, as he slashed .298/.376/.483 with 38 doubles, 21 homers and 98 RBI.
And contrary to what his -0.6 defensive WAR last season suggests, he’s about as dependable as they come with the glove. He led the entire National League in innings at center field last year, and he was the only player in the top ten of NL center fielders in innings to commit fewer than two errors. If there is one downside, it was the fact that he had just one outfield assist all season long. Nevertheless, looking at his entire game, there’s no question he could slide into the Dodgers’ lineup and make a positive impact.
As it stands now, there’s a long line for playing time in the Los Angeles outfield next season. Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson are the early favorites to lock down starting spots, with Andrew Toles also promising to contend after missing the majority of 2017 with an ACL tear. Enrique Hernandez, Rob Segedin and Trayce Thompson will be poised to handle the utility roles, and there’s also a remote shot the club could hang onto former All-Star Matt Kemp, who conceivably can be used as an offensive weapon against southpaw pitching. In addition, Alex Verdugo, Tim Locastro, Henry Ramos and Travis Taijeron all have the ability to provide extra depth on the fringe.
If a deal were to be negotiated, logic says that at least a few of the aforementioned names would be moved to bring in Yelich. Toles or Pederson could definitely be part of the package, with another of the fringe players adding depth to a potential trade. But, seeing how the Marlins are aiming high with the Braves and asking for Acuna, it may not be that easy. I’d like to think a package of Toles, Verdugo and Jordan Sheffield—or something of the like—would be enough to get a deal done, but that all depends on the perspectives of the Miami front office and ownership group.
At the end of the day, though, as intriguing as a deal for Yelich actually sounds, perhaps the focus of the Dodgers should stay with the starting rotation or the bullpen. There’s still a decent amount of cash left to spend below the luxury tax threshold, and the club may be better suited to acquire another quality pitcher before it adds more talent to an already stacked outfield.