Nick Cafardo of The Boston Globe has reported that the Rangers and Blue Jays “appear” to be in on Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich. The Nationals are the “latest” to get involved, and the Brewers, Giants, Phillies and Braves are also interested, per Cafardo.
Yelich undoubtedly the most valuable player on the trade block right now, though. it’s unclear as to whether the Marlins will actually trade him this offseason. Yelich reportedly doesn’t want to stick around for a lengthy rebuild, while the Marlins are asking for an exorbitant return; they aren’t attempting to attach any salary dump contracts such as Martin Prado or Wei-Yin Chen to Yelich’s in a trade.
The Marlins center-fielder posted a career-low but still-solid .282 batting average to go with eighteen home runs and 81 runs driven in, along with an .807 OPS. This was something of a step back for the 26-year-old, whose breakout 2016 season produced 21 home runs, an .859 OPS and 5.3 bWAR compared to 3.9 this past season. Nonetheless, Yelich has been an excellent player since debuting in 2013, posting at least 3.5 WAR in each of the past four seasons, buoyed by solid glove work in left field and adequate defense since moving to center in 2017.
The most valuable asset of Yelich, may, in fact, be his contract. The lefty swinger is due just $43.2 million over the next four seasons, and his contract also includes a very reasonable $15 million option for 2022, which would put Yelich under team control through his age-30 season.
The Rangers and Blue Jays are known to be in need of outfield help, with the Rangers set to roll with the speedy but light-hitting Delino Deshields in center field, and the Blue Jays with Teoscar Hernandez (a very talented player who nonetheless could use more minor league seasoning) in left field. Both teams would be able to cobble together the prospects needed, but it’s unclear to me if the Jays would include either of their two untouchable prospects: Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Bo Bichette, two of the fastest-risers in all of baseball. The Rangers traded away many of their best prospects in deals for Cole Hamels and Jonathan Lucroy, but gained a few in trading away Yu Darvish. The Giants are in the most dire need of outfield help but have a dearth of prospects, while the Phillies and Braves could be looking for a big move to make one more push with their offense before contending in 2019.