The trade the Reds should make to be more competitive now and later
CINCINNATI (WKRC) - When asked to describe how the Cincinnati Reds will approach this off-season, team General Manager Dick Williams summed it up with one word, "opportunistic."
That means the Reds aren't going to overpay for a big-name free agent or give up top prospects to rent a star for a year or two.
However, Williams and the Reds may have the perfect opportunity to land an All-Star caliber player for the next five years.
The Miami Marlins have entered full rebuilding mode after their trades of N.L. MVP Giancarlo Stanton to the New York Yankees, two-time All-Star Marcell Ozuna to the Reds' division rivals in the St. Louis Cardinals and former All-Star Dee Gordon to the Seattle Mariners.
Those moves have left a couple of the remaining Marlins players unhappy with the direction of the team, namely catcher J.T. Realmuto and outfielder Christian Yelich.
Yelich is the player on which the Reds should pounce. He is a 26-year-old center fielder for the Marlins who has a career slash line of .290/.369/.432 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage). The Reds current center fielder, Billy Hamilton, has a career slash line of .248/.298/.334. Yelich also hit 18 home runs playing his home games in Miami's spacious ballpark. Hitting 20-25 long balls while playing his home games at Great American Ball Park would be a realistic expectation for the former Silver Slugger Award winner.
The key to this trade that should pique the Reds interest is that Yelich is under contract for the next five years (the fifth is a team option) at the relatively cheap price of $58.25 million, an average of $11.65 million per year. If things don't go as hoped, his contract includes the team buyout for the final year at $1.25 million, according to Baseball Reference. That buyout could save his team $13.75 million if it chooses to exercise that option. Yelich would only be 30 years old for that 2022 season.
There are other contributing factors that make the Reds a good fit to deal with the Marlins for Yelich.
Through the rebuilding process, the Reds have built up a quality farm system with depth at every position. Those prospects can be used as assets to acquire a long-term product in Yelich. Contrary to the Reds, the Marlins have one of the weakest farm systems in baseball and are looking to reload with prospects as they embark on their rebuild.
It's not clear what the Marlins would be asking in return for Yelich, but it will likely be more than a few quality prospects. If the Reds could pull off the trade without giving up their top two prospects, 2016 first-round pick Nick Senzel or 2017 first-round pick Hunter Greene, it would be tough not to pull the trigger.
The Reds top outfield prospect, Taylor Trammel, is a 20-year-old who played in Dayton last year. The Reds are hoping he could turn out to be a player that Yelich is now.
There's one more deal the Reds would have to make to coordinate this trade. They would likely have to move Hamilton, who currently roams center field at GABP. As fun as he is to watch running down fly balls and speeding around the bases, the Reds were already rumored to be shopping Hamilton during the MLB Winter Meetings earlier this month with the San Francisco Giants. The Giants just traded their starting center fielder and their top prospect for 32-year-old third baseman Evan Longoria. That move would suggest that they aren't done dealing and still intend to fill their voids, including center field.
He is under Reds control for the next two seasons and set to be come a free agent in 2020, at which point Yelich will still have three more years on his contract.
If the organization could get a solid prospect in return for Hamilton, that would add another asset to its deep farm system.
Hamilton's speed would surely be missed but, as addressed by manager Bryan Price and evident to Reds fans everywhere, his speed can't do much for the team if he can't get on base. Despite his struggles at the plate, Hamilton has stolen at least 56 bases in each of his four full big-league seasons. Yelich had 16 steals in 2017.
The fact of the matter remains, the Reds' chances of being competitive are completely contingent upon the improvement of the pitching staff. If Homer Bailey, Anthony DeSclafani and Brandon Finnegan are not healthy, which they were not in 2017, the Big Red Machine lineup couldn't help this team compete in the N.L. Central.
But, if the Reds rotation and bullpen become reliable in the next few years, Yelich would be a welcomed addition in center field and on the bases.