The current talk surrounding the Dodgers, now that the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes are over, is about missing out on Giancarlo Stanton. But, there is another player on Miami, also from LA, who should be an option as well.
Giancarlo Stanton has officially rejected the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals, and appears headed to the Yankees pending approval and physicals. While the Dodgers missed out on an elite power hitter, it’s fair to question if the Dodgers were ever really serious about acquiring Stanton.
There is another player on the Marlins the franchise should turn their eyes to, and his name is Christian Yelich. The recently-turned 26-year-old is one of the more underrated players in baseball, and the biggest reason why is he has been stuck in South Beach mediocrity since his debut in 2013.
He doesn’t blow you off the field with any flashiness or elite tools like Dee Gordon’s speed or Giancarlo Stanton’s power, but he his a pure hitter and an all-around good athlete and Major League Baseball player. He is a career .290/.369/.432 hitter in 643 career games.
In 2017 he hit .282/.369/.439 with 18 home runs, 36 doubles and 16 stolen bases (caught twice). Those are good numbers, but they are a step back from his breakout 2016 season where he hit .298/.376/.483 with 21 home runs and 38 doubles en route to the Silver Slugger. He couldn’t replicate or build off that, but it was primarily due to a slow first two months. He caught fire as the season went on and slowed down towards the end.
But he still had good stats in 2017, and numbers that the Dodgers would take from left field, which brings up the topic of defense.
2017 was the first season in Yelich was the full-time center fielder for the Marlins, but before that, he was a Gold Glove-caliber left fielder, winning the award in 2014. If the Dodgers were to acquire him, they’d place him back in left, because he grades out as a better defender there than patrolling in center, where Chris Taylor looms.
The primary reason why the Dodgers were viewed as favorites for Stanton is another reason Christian Yelich is an intriguing option. Like Stanton, Yelich is an LA kid. He was born and raised in Thousand Oaks, CA and attended Westlake High School. It would be a sweet story for him to have a homecoming.
The one turnoff for the Dodgers may be the asking price Miami would ask for in return. In 2015, he signed a seven-year $49.57 million extension with his ballclub, keeping him under club control through 2021 with a club option of $15 million for 2022. He is due $43.25 million over the next four seasons which, for his skill set and production, is an absolute bargain.
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That brings into question what the Dodgers would have to give up. And I feel that conversation would have to start with Alex Verdugo. The 21-year-old outfielder was LA’s top prospect for a lot of 2017, and he made his debut, albeit in a limited fashion, in 2017.
The Dodgers have a glut of outfielders that they have to do something with, so if you are going to bring in another one, you need to move another one. And Verdugo is the kind of player that would headline a trade package for a player like Christian Yelich. He is an elite prospect with high ceilings as both a hitter and defender. Those are the kind of players Miami should be looking for as they go into another rebuild.
Verdugo alone won’t get it done, but he makes it more likely that the supporting pieces in a trade package could be less valuable. And the Dodgers should not be scared of moving Verdugo. Yes, he is only 21, but an unknown commodity. Yelich is only 26 (just entering his prime) and a known product locked up on a bargain deal for his prime years. A proven 26-year-old over an unproven 21-year-old should not be a hard decision to make.
And if we want to get really crazy for a second, how about a blockbuster between the two teams where both Yelich and Stanton come home? We can dream, can’t we?
In this scenario, the Dodgers would have to part with Verdugo, Puig, a few other solid prospects (Will Smith maybe?). Or throw in Yasmani Grandal to lower the prospect asking price. If they were to do this, the Dodgers should also be able to send back some of the terrible expiring contracts they have on them, such as Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir.
That is just a dream though. Realistically, the Dodgers would only go for one of them. But imagine a lineup of Chris Taylor-Corey Seager-Justin Turner-Cody Bellinger-Yasiel Puig-Christian Yelich-Logan Forsythe-Austin Barnes.
Yelich is a pure hitter that can flat out hit. He would solve the left field problem and add another near-elite player to the Dodgers’ core. And he is still young and cheap, which makes him a logical choice. Even though Stanton did not change coasts, Yelich should. One of the hometown kids needs a homecoming.