In recent weeks Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich has made it no secret he wants to be traded. The club has already moved Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, and Marcell Ozuna in cost-cutting moves, leaving them with a bare-bones roster plus Yelich. He's not happy about it.
The Marlins don't have to trade Yelich. He's much more affordable than Stanton and Gordon -- Yelich is owed $29.25 million from 2018-20 with cheap club options for 2021 and 22 -- and he's has three more years of control than Ozuna. If the Marlins trade Yelich, they could net a huge return. It wouldn't be a salary dump.
The Marlins, despite the rocky start to the Bruce Sherman/Derek Jeter era, know Yelich is extremely valuable. That's why, according to Hall of Fame journalist Peter Gammons, the team asked the Atlanta Braves for No. 1 prospect Ronald Acuna in trade talks. Needless to say, talks didn't go very far.
"The Marlins told the Braves, look it, we'll do a three or four or five for one (trade), but Ronald Acuna has to be in it no matter who the second player (is)," said Gammons during a recent MLB Network appearance. "That's one guy the Braves are not going to trade."
Acuna, who turned only 20 in December, is arguably the top prospect in baseball right now. MLB.com ranks him as the game's sixth best prospect, though he is expected to climb a few spots when they release their 2018 Top 100 Prospects List in a few weeks. Baseball America named Acuna their 2017 Minor League Player of the Year earlier this offseason.
There is a case to be made for trading Acuna for Yelich. After all, Acuna is still just a prospect, and prospects are suspects until they prove otherwise. Yelich is a proven above-average MLB producer who turned only 26 himself last month, indicating he still has another level to his game when he hits the prime of his career in a year or two. And he's signed dirt cheap long-term.
I imagine there is a very short list of players the Braves would consider trading Acuna to acquire, and Yelich apparently isn't on it. And that's fine. Prospects who hit .325/.374/.522 with 21 home runs and 44 stolen bases in their age 19 season while reaching Triple-A are exceedingly rare. Acuna has a chance to be a star. He can be the Braves' next franchise player.
At the same time, I don't think it is unreasonable for the Marlins to ask for Acuna in a potential Yelich deal. Top five prospects have been traded before -- heck, just two years ago the Braves netted Dansby Swanson in the Shelby Miller trade -- and if you're not going to start negotiations by asking for the moon, then what's the point?