The Miami Marlins have been having a fire sale of most of their best players since Derek Jeter’s ownership group took over. Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna have already been dealt, and catcher J.T. Realmuto reportedly expressed his desire to be traded.
Christian Yelich might be next on the list of Marlins veterans to go. So here’s a rumor for you:
Now. I don’t know of the reliability of this information and I haven’t seen it corroborated by any other Cubs writer, so it might be just noise.
But let’s talk about it anyway.
Yelich was the Marlins’ No. 1 pick in 2010, 23rd overall. (Note: that was seven picks after the Cubs took Hayden Simpson.)
He made his major-league debut in 2013 and has been a regular Marlins outfielder ever since. Last year he became the team’s full-time center fielder (155 games played there, 150 starts) and over the last two seasons has bumped his offensive game up a level, hitting .298/.376/.483 in 2016 with 21 home runs and .282/.369/.439 with 18 home runs and 16 stolen bases in 2017, when he also posted a career high in walks (80) that ranked 10th in the National League.
Clearly, anyone who hits like this would look good in the Cubs lineup. But what would it take to get him?
Yelich is signed to a team-friendly contract that will pay him $43.25 million over the next four seasons, through 2021. There’s a $15 million team option for 2022 with a $1.25 million buyout.
If the Cubs were to trade for Yelich, he’d almost certainly be installed as the team’s regular center fielder, which means Albert Almora Jr. would likely go back to Miami in the deal. Despite being in the major leagues for almost five full seasons, Yelich is only 2½ years older than Almora. He just turned 26 earlier in December.
Almora is a Miami-area native, so that could be a selling point for the likely vanishing Marlins fanbase.
Beyond that I’d expect the Cubs would want to send prospects back to the Marlins. I’m not sure who I’d add to that deal. Perhaps the Marlins could be enticed to take Justin Grimm, to give the Cubs some salary relief (Grimm’s probably in line to make about $3 million this year).
Would you do this? I’m a big fan of Almora, but Yelich could certainly more than replace him offensively. Defensively, though, this is likely somewhat of a downgrade. Yelich, with a career OBP of .369, could solve the Cubs’ leadoff hitter issue.