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David Samson: Christian Yelich pushed Marlins for long contract extension

Seeking financial security as a 23-year-old, Yelich locked himself into one of MLB’s most team-friendly deals.

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San Diego Padres v Miami Marlins Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images

In the prime of his career and coming off back-to-back dominant seasons, Christian Yelich is about to get paid by the Brewers. The contract extension will add seven guaranteed years and approximately $188.5 million of new money, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Although impressive, it pales in comparison to other long-term deals signed recently by MLB superstars. Even Giancarlo Stanton’s not-so-recent extension was more player-friendly:

Former Marlins president David Samson claims that Yelich has nobody to blame but himself.

Samson is now a pundit for CBS Sports, hosting his own podcast called “Nothing Personal with David Samson.” Wednesday’s episode reflected on how Yelich’s initial seven-year, $49.57 million commitment came to be.

The young outfielder had just slashed .284/.362/.402 (118 wRC+) in 2014, winning an NL Gold Glove and contributing 4.1 fWAR, when the following negotiations allegedly took place entering his age-23 season:

“[Yelich] wanted extra guaranteed years; we wanted to give him fewer. He wanted us to guarantee his free agent years, at $12.5M [for 2020] and $14M [for 2021]...This was a reach for us, but we wanted to lock up one of our young players in a reasonable way.

“We then can’t come to an agreement. He pulls me aside during Spring Training, we go into the manager’s office, and he says to me, ‘Listen, this either gets done right now or not at all.’

“I said, ‘I agree, Yeli. We’re not going through this anymore. Forget your agent, forget the GM, forget the owner: you and I are going to do this right now.’

“So Yeli and I went back and forth. He said, ‘Just guarantee me that extra year.’

“And I said, ‘Okay, if we do that, are you in?’

“He said, ‘You gotta guarantee me the second year, too,’ because we had two options.

“And I said, ‘We’ll guarantee you two extra years if you agree to a team option in 2022.’

“Yeli looked at me and said, ‘You’ll guarantee the first two [in 2020 and 2021], and I’ll give you the team option for the third?’

“I said, ‘you got a deal.”

To clarify, president of baseball operations Michael Hill told MLB Trade Rumors that the Marlins were the ones who initiated contract talks. He also claimed they “never seriously considered a deal that was shorter or longer,” even though Samson himself says he had reservations about the length.

Samson was ousted by new ownership following the 2017 season. By then, Yelich had transitioned to center field, putting up consecutive durable, borderline All-Star-caliber seasons. The four years and $44.5 million—and fifth-year club option—remaining on his deal at the time was seen as extremely below market value, putting him on the short list of the league’s most valuable trade assets. Hill sent him to the Brewers for a package of Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Díaz and Jordan Yamamoto in January 2018.

If Yelich had bet on himself and gone year-to-year through the arbitration process, he would’ve been in line for much higher salaries in 2018 and 2019 and eligible for free agency this past winter. In that alternate universe, what kind of reduced package would the Marlins have received? Being able to see the light at the end of his team control, are we sure he would’ve pushed hard for a trade in the first place? Does Yelich make the same leap to stardom in 2018 with Miami that he ultimately did with Milwaukee?

Since being dealt, Yelich has enjoyed facing the Fish (.372/.471/.605, 2 HR, 10 RBI in 12 G). However, his 2019 campaign ended prematurely in Miami on Sept. 10 when he fouled an Elieser Hernandez pitch off his knee cap.

The Brewers will be coming to town for a four-game series May 4-7.