Dee Gordon, gone. Giancarlo Stanton, gone. Marcell Ozuna, gone.
The expectation coming into the off-season was that the former pair would be jettisoned ostensibly to reduce salary, and Ozuna was a prime candidate to be traded because of his fantastic season last year, having only two years left before hitting the open marketplace, and being represented by Scott Boras (who almost always takes his clients to free agency).
So now, the never-satiated sports world turns it’s collective gaze to the lone star outfielder remaining on the team,
Derek Dietrich Christian Yelich.
Reports on his availability vary.
Sources: Now that Marcell Ozuna has been dealt to St. Louis, Christian Yelich is in play. Marlins are telling teams they’ll trade him, though price will be even higher than Ozuna, with Yelich under control for up to five years at $58.25 million.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) December 13, 2017
Christian Yelich is no longer in play as a trade candidate, source confirms. Now that the #Marlins have moved Stanton, Gordon and Ozuna, they can easily afford to keep him. Yelich will make $7M this season and is owed a guaranteed $44.5M through 2021. Club-friendly deal.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 13, 2017
Marlins are regrouping now and plan to talk to Christian Yelich about how he feels about staying. He’s frustrated to see 3 best friends/top players go. So he may say he wants to go, which may trigger trade of him, too.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 13, 2017
#Marlins’ Mattingly spoke of Yelich this morning as a piece to build around. But Yelich will not want to be part of a stripped-down club any more than Stanton did.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 13, 2017
To say that Christian Yelich doesn’t want to play on a rebuilding ball club goes without question. Find me a proven ballplayer who does.
Mattingly through Hill through Jeter: Hey Christian, the Captain wanted me to check in with you to see how you’re feeling about all of this. I’ll just get right down to it. We want to build this thing around you. How’s that sit with you?
Yelich: You’re going to surround me with a bunch of kids who may or may not pan out, while we play in front of even sparser crowds and endure potentially back-to-back 100 loss seasons? Where do I sign up?
[Mattingly pats his cheek lovingly]
Mattingly: You already have, my friend. You already have.
Because that’s the thing, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter ultimately how Yelich feels about all this. Unless he’s willing to go Operation Shutdown ala Derek Bell, Yelich is going to be a part of this thing whether he likes it or not. His frustrations with the present situation will calm, over time.
The argument to keep Yelich around isn’t a bad one by any stretch. At 26 years old, he’s very much in that window of continuing development and could actually develop that power stroke pundits have long thought coming.
He will grow to like some of his new teammates. He may see them progress and buy in to what the Marlins are doing. Now that his flashier outfield companions are gone, he might grow and embrace the role of vocal team leader. I would be very pleased to see a sage Yelich, having fully realized his potential, anchoring a young, hungry, deep Marlins squad circa 2020, 2021.
Or, he might get traded for an amazing package of talented prospects. And that is probably what should happen.
Maybe you hated the returns for Gordon/Stanton/Ozuna. The full strength of those particular deals wont be known for years, so I personally try not to fret too much about prospect rankings. Gary Denbo has a sterling track record of talent being both spotted and developed under his watchful eye and we have no reason to believe he doesn’t have a heavy hand in these trades, at this stage.
It would be very interesting to see what he can acquire for five affordable years of entering-his-prime Christian Yelich. There are a lot of ifs with trades and prospects, but that package, if properly executed, could propel the farm system from bottom of the barrel to middle of the pack (if not higher).
Let’s put it this way: It would be hard to mess this one up.
With the rebuilding process already underway and the team not looking like it will be competitive for a couple years (at least), half of Yelich’s remaining time here would probably be spent toiling away on bad teams. Or, you could have a couple great prospects (alongside another interesting piece or two) developing in the Marlins’ minor league system in the same time period, while Yelich does his thing somewhere else, definitely still good but perhaps not living up to that ultimate potential people have dreamed about.
For those thinking there would be some sort of benefit to keeping Yelich around to placate the fan base, well, I wouldn’t get your hopes up that those kind of thoughts are present in the current ownership’s calculations. It’s clear from the moves already executed that they’re going to do whatever they perceive it takes to get where they want to be both financially and from a restocking perspective.
We know teams are lining up to acquire Christian Yelich, and that the Marlins asking price is rightfully high. Chances are good that one of those teams are going to offer a package that is too good to pass up.