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Marlins extension candidate: Christian Yelich

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The Marlins already supposedly offered Jose Fernandez a six-year contract worth $40 million, and they may be offering deals to other players soon. What would a contract to Christian Yelich look like?

Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

The Miami Marlins are proving to be serious about their efforts to surround Giancarlo Stanton with talent. They recently offered a six-year contract extension to Jose Fernandez that conveniently would cover the guaranteed time for Stanton's 13-year deal and would buy out two critical free agent years for Fernandez. According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports, the team isn't done either.

In their effort to keep their better young players, the Marlins also have made long-term offers to outfielder Christian Yelich and shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria, and they're due to make an offer early this week to outfielder Marcell Ozuna. Perhaps their chances to extend one or more of those fine players is somewhat better than it is with Fernandez, who thus far hasn't suggested any inclination to do such a long deal so early in his career.

The names listed here are not surprising, as Miami has identified this group of candidates as the future core of the Fish going foward. Aside from Hechavarria, who would have to be an Andrelton Simmons-level savant defensively to make up for his terrible bat, offers to these players would make sense. Apparently the team has already attempted a deal with Yelich.

The chance to do long deals with a couple of the others might be somewhat better than with Fernandez, though word is there's also work to do with at least Yelich. The offer to him was said to have been patterned after Starling Marte's $31-million, six-year deal, though it is also said to have been for less total dollars.

A starting point that was brought up was Starling Marte's six-year deal with the Pittsburgh Pirates, which buys out one free agent year and has two club options. Marte's deal bought out his second pre-arbitration season, much like a Yelich deal would do here. Both players are comparable, and it makes sense for their deals to be similar. Marte just put up two consecutive four-win seasons despite injury, and while his game has more homer and strikeouts, they both profile as a defensive-minded left fielders who definitely contribute at the plate.

There is another name who earned an early contract extension some time ago who would be comparable. Carl Crawford was never known for power but always known for his speed and defensive prowess. Tampa Bay signed him to an extension covering his third pre-arbitration season and three arbitration years and included two affordable team options. The contract began in 2005, so the market and arbitration prices have changed since then, but the profiles again look similar.

Marte is slated to earn $15.5 million through three arbitration years. Let's tack on his $2 million signing bonus to those prices and make it an even $17.5 million for those years. Back in 2006, Crawford was slated to earn $11.75 million during those arbitration years. Tack on his buyout option and his signing bonus and you are at $14.25 million. If you adjust for market prices, the number greatly increases, but there needs to be an adjustment for signing a year later than Marte and Yelich would. Along with the buyouts and signing bonuses, it's reasonable to say that Crawford's deal could have been worth $20 million had he signed it in this current environment and at the same time Yelich and Marte did.

The comparable seasons are at $17.5 million to $20 million in arbitration. Yelich has not been as good a hitter as Marte in his early seasons, and he does not have the steals numbers that Crawford had. Those things suggest his prices should be less than the average $18.75 million that the two comparables earned. But Yelich has hardware the two do not have in the form of a Gold Glove award from this past season. Perhaps the tradeoff should be to take the arbitration salary of Marte's deal and add more money at the end during the free agent years.

Here is how a Yelich contract could look compared to Marte's deal.

Player Pre-Arb 2 Pre-Arb 3 Arb 1 Arb 2 Arb 3 FA 1 FA 2 FA 3
Christian Yelich 0.75 0.75 4 6 8 11 13** 15**
Starling Marte 0.5 1 3 5 9.5* 10 12.5 13.5

*denotes added $2M signing bonus
**denotes club option

If you add up the proposed Yelich deal, it totals six-years and $30.5 million with two club options for his free agent years at $28 million total. It is a similarly structured deal and is reasonable given the track records and comparable players involved.

However, it sounds as though Yelich would prefer a higher base salary because of his youth compared to Marte, who signed his deal beginning in his age-25 season. Yelich would be two years younger heading into his deal. If we make marginal bumps in salary, one could formulate a six-year, $34 million contract with just a few changes. This would appease Yelich without significantly changing any one year's payroll effect, as $1 million bumps in salary during arbitration and free agency could cover the expected difference between the two players. This would be an entirely reasonable extension as well.

The odds of the Marlins signing Jose Fernandez remains low given that Scott Boras would not prefer a team-friendly early deal. But Yelich appears willing, and if the Marlins do not unnecessarily low-ball an offer with small salary differences over a six-year span, the Fish could take a huge step in securing a star player next to Stanton for a long time and at affordable prices.