This is part one of a three-part series. There have been three mega trades over the last two years that make the word heist seem reserved when describing them. All three of these trades were made in 2018.
Marlins trade of OF Christian Yelich to the Brewers for OF Lewis Brinson, OF Monte Harrison, IF Isan Díaz and P Jordan Yamamoto
Rays trade P Chris Archer to Pirates for P Tyler Glasnow, OF Austin Meadows and P Shane Baz
The Seattle Mariners trade Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the New York Mets for Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautista and prospects Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn.
Let’s start with the Marlins deal. Christian Yelich was coming off a down year in 2017 compared to his 2016 campaign. He hit only 18 homeruns with an .807 OPS compared to 21 homeruns and an .859 OPS the year before. People were wondering if he had tapped out his power potential already at just 20 homeruns. He had also moved over to centerfield in 2017 where he posted an ugly -12 defensive runs saved after posting a positive two defensive runs saved in left field in 2016. The Marlins were in full tear down mode having already traded face of the franchise Giancarlo Stanton and fellow outfielder Marcel Ozuna. Yelich also had voiced displeasure about the direction of the team. His underlying skills suggested he had more power than he was showing even though he was seen as a solid everyday player at the time. Yelich had a team friendly deal so the Marline wanted to try to cash in this last trade chip to help move their rebuild along. The Brewers were coming off an 86-76 season and had not been in the postseason since 2011. On the same day they traded for Yelich they signed Lorenzo Cain. This was a clear move the Brewers believed they had the pieces to win now at the big-league level. They had a great bullpen led by Josh Hader and Corey Knebel and built a decent rotation led by Wade Miley and Jhoulys Chachin. They added Cain and Yelich to a lineup already featuring Ryan Braun and a few players they were hoping would turn their careers back around such as Jesus Aguilar and Domingo Santana. The Brewers would go on to win 96 games in 2018 and 89 more in 2019 led by Christian Yelich who would go on to win the 2018 MVP award and if not for breaking his knee in 2019 may have won another, instead he had to settle for a second-place finish. Upon arriving in Milwaukee Yelich found his power stroke hitting 36 homeruns in 2018 while leading the National League in batting average, slugging percentage, OPS, OPS+ and total bases. He also stole 22 bases and posted a 7.3 WAR. He was on track for an even better encore in 2019 as he hit 44 homeruns, stole 30 bases and led the NL in batting average, on base percentage, OPS and OPS+. He accumulated a 7.0 WAR despite playing in only 130 games in 2019 and has been the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout over the past two seasons and looks primed to be once again in 2020. The problem here is the Brewers now look like they could be headed in the wrong direction. Ryan Braun is not getting any younger, they lost Mike Moustakas their third basmen, Yasmani Grandal their starting catcher and pitcher Chase Anderson between 2019 and 2020. They only have one pitcher in Brandon Woodruff that inspires confidence for now and the future. And after this deal they do not have a great farm system anymore. They may never be able to win the big one and now with Yelich’s new extension bringing in talent could be harder going forward. The Marlins received four prospects in this deal with Lewis Brinson being the centerpiece. Prior to 2017 Lewis Brinson was a top prospect ever since being drafted 29th overall by the Texas Rangers in 2012. He was a highly touted prospect with burgeoning five too talent. So far however he has struggled to the tune of a .183 batting average and a .531 OPS in the majors. With 211 strikeouts to 37 walks in the MLB, Brinson needs to refine his approach and produce results quickly to be a part of the Marlins future plans. So, one prospect in the deal may already be a bust, the second one Monte Harrison has not yet reached the big leagues. Monte Harrison is the number 9 prospect in the Marlins system. In 2018 he had a 37 percent strikeout rate and even though he did lower it to 29 percent in 2019 he will need to further refine his approach if he wants to have an impact at the big-league level. He has four tools which grade out as a 55 or better according to MLB.com but his ability to make contact will need to improve for the 24-year-old to be a big-league starter one day. So, with two players with plate discipline issues already, here comes Isan Diaz who struck out 59 times in just 49 games in the big leagues this year. Yes, it was his rookie season and he have time to improve but he did post a 26.6 strikeout rate in the minors in 2017 and outside of 2019 had little to no success in the minor leagues. Was 2019 just a fluke for Diaz or will he be able to adjust to major league pitching? The jury is still out on that one but if he can’t develop into a franchise second baseman for the Marlins this trade will be one they regret for a very long time. Now there is one last player in this trade Jordan Yamamoto. While he did strikeout over a batter an inning in the majors last year he also posted a 4.46 era and scouts have never thought he would be an ace. Even if he is a good pitcher he will need to help the Marlins win for many years and in important games, even if he does that, this trade still looks better for the Brewers. The Brewers essentially paid pennies on the dollar for Yelich in this trade but ultimately it is looking more and more likely that neither team may get the final prize of a world series championship with the players in this trade on those championship roosters. In conclusion the Brewers won the Yelich trade big but unless they can come up with a better starting pitching staff and soon they may not get the ring they are searching for with Yelich on the rooster. The Marlins wish they got more for Yelich, but they still could end up benefitting from the players they received but they have to start hoping it is soon.