It appears the Marlins are going to trade Christian Yelich. Given how Yelich reacted to the trades of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Dee Gordon, and the fact that Miami is about to enter a full rebuild, this probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. But anytime a player as young, and talented, and cost-controlled as Yelich comes on the market, we should take notice. It just doesn’t happen that often. And with the news coming he’ll likely be traded, the subsequent trade rumors have followed.
Enter the Braves.
The Braves want Christian Yelich. Most of baseball probably wants Christian Yelich. These type of players, on these types of contracts are usually built around, not traded. So the news he’s fully available is going to bring out big guns. Pretty much every prospect in baseball, from a pure value standpoint, is on the table in a Christian Yelich deal. Jeff Sullivan over at Fangraphs correctly concluded yesterday that Miami’s reported desire for super-prospect Ronald Acuna is actually based in reality. Yelich is worth that. And while Jeff agreed with most that Atlanta should not give up their star OF prospect, what we are left with is a simple conclusion. If Yelich is worth Acuna, Yelich is worth anybody.
What this means for Miami, and where this gets interesting, is they have a choice to make. One that will shape their rebuild. When trading away a superstar, do you trade for one big-time asset, an Acuna-like prospect, or do you spread out the risk by taking a package of 3 or 4 really good prospects?
Kiley McDaniel, who spent the last year or so working in Atlanta’s front office, just returned to public writing and one of his first pieces touched on this question. Here’s an excerpt from that post:
I’m aware of of a high profile instance of a progressive club turning down an attractive deal for one clearly superior prospect, instead choosing multiple lesser prospects, an example that would’ve shocked readers at the time and still would today. When I asked a member of that front office to explain the thought process, he said that they saw minor leaguers as gambles. Getting only one player for a premium asset means that the one prospect could bust and give them nothing (read: bad PR on a high profile trade), so they opted to diversify with multiple assets. I’m almost certain this club would’ve traded three similar assets for a premium prospect in a vacuum, so the PR of a high profile trade made them take different players than they would normally. I’m also aware of enough trade talks over the years with this club and other clubs with a similar process to see multiple examples of this thinking.
Conventional wisdom says, if you’re trading away a star, you need to get a star back. But as this insight from Kiley shows us, there are teams, progressive teams, that disagree. As baseball has become more analytical, one significant effect we’ve seen is how many teams are operated from a risk management point of view. Simply put, teams today are more risk-averse than ever. Look at free agency. Teams have learned high-dollar, long-term contracts aren’t great bets. It’s the same with trading away stars. Why lay the entire outcome of a high-profile trade at the feet of one asset when you can spread the risk out among multiple assets?
These trades get talked about for decades. They can end careers as quickly as they can launch them. It shouldn’t surprise us that teams don’t want the outcome of such a crucial decision hinged on one minor-leaguer.
The question is how does Miami see it? They’ve obviously asked for Acuna but that’s more operational prudence than anything. A starting point. Where they end up landing is the interesting part.
And that answer matters greatly, especially for Atlanta.
The Braves are not going to trade Ronald Acuna. I often discourage people from speaking in certainties about things that aren’t certain but here, I’ll say it with certainty. The Braves are not going to trade Ronald Acuna. Which means their best chance to land Christian Yelcih is for Miami to prefer to diversify their return. Top 100 prospect list are about to come out in full force and my guess is Atlanta has something like 6 or 7 guys on them. Maybe more, well see. Point is Atlanta has the firepower outside of Ronald Acuna to offer the best package of prospects. I’d go as far as to say, if Miami does want to spread out the risk, Atlanta matches up best. Especially considering Miami reportedly wants pitching.
But they could go the other way. They could prefer the potential superstar. At which point a team like Washington probably makes the most sense. Victor Robles is a top 10 prospect and Washington is at the correct place in the win cycle to justify moving him. Or maybe a team like Houston with Kyle Tucker. Cause that team needs more talent. We’ll see.
If it were me, I’d do everything I could to get 7 top 100 prospects for Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto. Trade them separately and use those guys to jump-start a rebuild. Miami isn’t Victor Robles away from being competitive. They need a farm system, not one player. But I’m not them and they don’t always operate in the most logical fashion so this will be fascinating to watch.