Revisiting the Christian Yelich Trade: Five Years Later

Christian Yelich of the Milwaukee Brewers

Five years ago, the Miami Marlins blew up its roster via a trio of trades that sent three star outfielders — Marcell Ozuna, Giancarlo Stanton, and Christian Yelich — out of South Beach. But while the Stanton and Ozuna deals did yield benefits for the Marlins, the one deal that was arguably the worst of the bunch was the Yelich trade. Here’s a look at the deal in more detail.

Related: Revisiting the Giancarlo Stanton Trade: Five Years Later

What the Brewers Got

At the time the Brewers acquired Yelich, Milwaukee was a team on the rise and just barely missed the postseason a year earlier. To beef up its lineup, the Brewers acquired former farmhand and 2015 World Series champion Lorenzo Cain via free agency and then pulled the trigger to add Yelich.

Yelich proved to be a valuable player with the Marlins. The outfielder didn’t hit as many homers as compared to Stanton or Ozuna, but he was an adept hitter with exceptional bat-to-ball skills. The ex-Marlin hit at least .280 or better in each of his first five seasons in the Majors and was excellent at the dish from a discipline standpoint.

The 2018 season proved to be a monumental for both the Brewers and Yelich. Not only did the Brewers come just one game shy of its second World Series birth, but Yelich broke out in Milwaukee. The 26-year-old belted 36 home runs — 15 more than his previous career-high — and led the NL in OPS (1.000) to win his only NL MVP to date.

One year later, Yelich put up arguably a better regular season. The star outfielder hit .329/.429/.671 with 44 home runs and 97 runs batted in. Yelich may have won his second NL MVP that fall, had it not been for the incredible season from Dodgers outfielder Cody Bellinger

What happened next, however, proved to be shocking to many baseball fans. Yelich’s numbers took a steep tumble, starting in 2020. He did manage to hit 12 home runs for the Brewers in the shortened 2020 season, but his average dropped to .206 and his OPS by over 300 points. Back problems have wrecked havoc on him in recent years, and his power numbers have plummeted as well.

The trade still netted the Brewers an incredible outfielder who’s recorded a bWAR of 10.8 since 2018. However, 8.5 of that came between 2018-19.

What the Marlins Got

The Marlins received a large package that included two talented power-hitting outfield prospects in Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison. along with infielder Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto.

Both Brinson and Harrison were regarded as talented, yet very raw. The two were virtually mirror images of each other in the Minors, as both showed plenty of pop and speed but swing-and-miss issues were major concerns. Thus far, neither of the two have cracked the Majors as regulars. As of April 2023, Harrison only has 68 MLB at-bats to his name and is now back in the Brewers farm system. As for Brinson, the former first-round pick batted .198 over his first 1,071 at-bats and is currently in the Giants farm system.

Isan Diaz didn’t have much like in the Majors, either. Diaz made his Major League debut with Miami in 2019, but only batted .173 over 179 at-bats. The 26-year-old received another look in 2021 after he missed most of 2020, but failed to crack .200. Currently, Diaz is in the Giants farm system.

Yamamoto, meanwhile, received brief time in the Majors with both the Marlins and Mets between 2019-21. The right-hander posted an ERA north of 6.00 in the Majors and failed to command the strike zone well. After a rough Spring Training with the Dodgers in 2023, Yamamoto announced his retirement from the game.

Given the results that the Marlins received from this deal, it’s fair to say Milwaukee came out on top — despite the recent struggles from Yelich over the last three season. And out of the three major deals the Marlins made in the 2017-18 offseason, this one stings the most. The Ozuna deal netted the Fish a pair of aces, while Miami freed up a large chunk of change by shipping Stanton out of town. The Yelich trade, on the other hand, sent a budding superstar out of town for very little returns.

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