If The Miami Marlins are Going to Tear Their Team Down, the Blue Jays Need to Jump on the Opportunity
Before the Winter Meetings in Orlando even had a chance to start this week, the two biggest moves of the offseason had already gone down. Two-way sensation (maybe) Shohei Ohtani jilted the big East Coast clubs and signed with the Anaheim Angels. The Yankees, not ones to be outshined, swung what might be one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history, acquiring Giancarlo Stanton from their new NL East affiliate Miami Marlins.
While the former won’t wrinkle the Toronto Blue Jays’ plans so much, the latter adds an extra boss to fight in an already difficult American League East. The Jays were probably never in on Stanton, not that he’d ever come to Toronto anyway, but if the Miami Marlins are trading anyone making money off their payroll and firing anyone making a health insurance claim, then Toronto should be gently tapping on President Mike Hill‘s hotel room door.
We’ve discussed trading with the Marlins here before, with the most recent object of affection being Dee Gordon, who was traded last week to another Ohtani bridesmaid, the Seattle Mariners. Marcell Ozuna is also getting plenty of interest, but the Marlin the Blue Jays should throw a line in the water for (I am so sorry) is Christian Yelich.
Yelich has quietly been one of the more valuable outfielders in the National League since his 2013 debut, playing solid if not unspectacular defense in the outfield (LF and CF) while offering great on-base skills, speed on the bases, and some decent power. If the Marlins are truly dumping the MLB roster just for some salary relief, then the Blue Jays might be the ideal trade counterpart.
Yelich signed a 7-year, $49.6 Million contract in 2015, so he doesn’t come with the potential albatross of a contract that Stanton does. He’ll make $7 Million in 2018, $9.75 Million in 2019, $12.5 Million in 2020, $14 Million in 2021, and $15 Million in 2022. Based on his consistent production at the MLB level, you can imagine that his contract would be a very safe one to take on. His 2022 option can be bought out for $1.25 million.
And about that production. In his five major league season, Yelich has slashed a career .290/.369/.432 with an OPS+ of 120. Much of the Blue Jays lack of production came from a giant sucking void in the outfield, and while Anthony Alford and Teoscar Hernandez had promising debuts, they’re probably not entirely ready for The Show. That leaves an incredibly unsexy array of Kevin Pillar, Ezequiel Carrera and Steve Pearce to take a good 1200 at-bats. If Ross Atkins is committed to competing this season, that just won’t do it.
|5 Yr||5 Yr||5 Yr||643||2812||2478||369||719||146||14||59||293||72||18||300||579||.290||.369||.432||.800||120||1070|
The lanky OF could easily slot in to the top of the lineup, with a nice .369 career OBP setting the table for Josh Donaldson, Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales, not to mention some other potential lineup upgrades from those missing in action in 2017. And once Yelich reaches base, he’s not a station-to-station guy like the rest of the team. His 28.7 ft/s sprint speed through StatCast would place him – you guessed it – firmly atop the Blue Jays roster.
While he missed almost 40 games in 2015, Yelich has also been pretty consistent with his playing time over his career, averaging 145 games played and putting up 4.5 fWAR seasons three times since 2014. He’s good, he’s consistent, and he has a pretty good chance to maintain his production.
Unlike Giancarlo Stanton, though, you would think the asking price would be more than just “please just pay this guy for us.” Yelich is young, cheap and controllable, and he has a much more dynamic skill set than Stanton. Needless to say, the competition for his services will be steep. The Blue Jays, though, could offer to take on Yelich’s contract entirely (not debilitating) and offer cheap assets off the MLB 40-man roster such as Kevin Pillar or Ezequiel Carrera, as the Marlins will need something at the MLB level this coming season. The ask wouldn’t end there, though, and it would probably take a couple of Top 10 prospects – and I’m just speculating here – with a relatively high ceiling. Likely pitchers such as Conner Green or Sean Reid-Foley. The Marlins would probably want some risk/reward-type guys from the lower levels added on as well.*
Yelich would make the Blue Jays significantly better in a relatively short period of time. The Marlins, if they are interested at all in having a competitive team in the near future, may choose to hold on to him, but there’s been no indication they care about the on-field product. The Blue Jays can help them build for the future and do so without significantly hampering their own future plans, with Yelich being signed far enough into the future that the Blue Jays depth in the lower minors can grow into the team around him.
*Updated 12 December 2017.
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Roy’s earliest memories all involve baseball from the early 90’s and the Blue Jays dream teams. He became a Blue Jays fan while watching Carlos Delgado and Shawn Green evolve in Syracuse, NY at the run-down confines of MacArthur Stadium, nestled between highway and swamp. A lifelong baseball player, Roy still plays (P, C, 2B, 3B) in the 25+ Syracuse MSBL for the Liverpool Mets. He watches almost all games with his best buddy Sebastian, a five year old Pug, who could care less.