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Milwaukee Brewers: Revisiting The Christian Yelich Trade One Year Later

MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 20: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates after hitting a solo home run against Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game Seven of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 20, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
MILWAUKEE, WI - OCTOBER 20: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers celebrates after hitting a solo home run against Walker Buehler #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during the first inning in Game Seven of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park on October 20, 2018 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /
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The Milwaukee Brewers acquired outfielder Christian Yelich from the Miami Marlins on January 25th, 2018 in exchange for prospects Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison, and Jordan Yamamoto.

It’s been exactly one year since the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Christian Yelich, and what an amazing 365 days it’s been.

Before this trade, Brewers fans were expecting an outfield starring Lewis Brinson, Domingo Santana, and Brett Phillips. Since then, all three have been traded and the outfield picture in Milwaukee is much stronger than it was before, and a major part of that is due to Christian Yelich.

How Did The Brewers Do In The Trade?

The Brewers did amazing in this deal, and this trade alone should’ve won GM David Stearns the Executive of the Year award. We knew the Brewers were acquiring an ascending player who could benefit from leaving pitcher-friendly Marlins Park for the very hitter-friendly Miller Park. But we had no idea how high he would ascend and how much he would benefit.

In his first year in Milwaukee, Yelich hit .326/.402/.598, with 118 runs scored, 34 doubles, seven triples, 36 homers, 110 RBIs, 22 stolen bases, and a 164 OPS+, all en route to the National League MVP award, falling just one vote shy of unanimity.

He led the NL in batting average, slugging, OPS, OPS+, and total bases. He was just short of the home run and RBI title as well, and came close to completing the Triple Crown. Oh, and he also hit for two cycles and basically became the new Face of the Franchise.

All in all, not a bad first season.

The best part about it is, the Brewers have four more seasons of contractual control over Yelich at a very team friendly rate. He’s going to earn $9.75 million in 2019, coming off an MVP campaign, and he’s only 27.

One Year Grade: A+

How Did The Marlins Do In The Trade?

As much fun as it was watching the Yelich MVP run in Milwaukee, it was probably a little bittersweet down in Miami. After all, they had this young, ascending player in their own hands and they let him go as part of a huge fire sale to start a rebuilding process that offseason. But with the huge prospect package they got back, there should be hope, right? Right?

Lewis Brinson was the centerpiece of the trade. He was the Brewers consensus top prospect and was seen as a future 30 homer, 30 stolen base centerfielder, and the CF of the future for Milwaukee at the time. Now he was the CF of the future for Miami.

In year one, Brinson hit .199/.240/.338 with 11 home runs, 42 RBIs, and two stolen bases. To say he got off to a rough start would be an understatement. I mean, below the Mendoza line? Seriously? This was the same guy who hit .331 with a .962 in Triple-A with the Brewers (although it was Colorado Springs). For whatever reason, Brinson bottomed out in 2018, and his future star potential might be in doubt.

Isan Diaz, the second base prospect who was the second highest rated prospect in the deal, didn’t do much better. Across Double-A and Triple-A, Diaz hit .232 with a .739 OPS, 13 homers, 56 RBIs, and 14 stolen bases. He’s still young and has plenty of raw power, but did see an uptick in his strikeout numbers.

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Monte Harrison was the one player I wasn’t that happy about trading away, but Yelich’s success has obviously warmed me up on the idea. Harrison had a strong season in Double-A, hitting .240 with a .715 OPS to go with 19 homers, 48 RBIs, and 28 stolen bases. But he also struck out 215 times.

Jordan Yamamoto, the only prospect who was unranked in the Brewers top 30 at the time actually had the best season of all four. Yamamoto pitched to a 1.83 ERA across three levels, making it all the way up to Double-A. In his 13 starts, Yamamoto allowed only 14 walks, struck out 85, and had a 0.83 WHIP.

One Year Grade: C

Overall

The Marlins probably didn’t get enough back in return for Yelich, at least through this first season. Brinson may end up being a great player, but he didn’t really show any signs of the player Miami thought they were getting when they made the trade. Diaz and Harrison have plenty of things to be optimistic about, but have huge flaws as well. Yamamoto may end up being the best of the bunch.

If I were the Marlins, or at least a Marlins fan, I would’ve wanted one of the Brewers top pitching prospects, along with Brinson, in this package. They could’ve easily demanded one of Corbin Burnes, Freddy Peralta, or Brandon Woodruff at the time. Perhaps they did and Stearns said no, we’ll never know for sure. But the fact that this trade got done with the Brewers keeping all of those top pitching prospects was a major bonus for them.

I remember when I first saw the trade package going in return for Yelich, and the report had Brinson and Diaz as the centerpieces. I jumped for joy that the Brewers were able to keep those starting pitchers and instead sent Diaz, who would’ve been surpassed by Keston Hiura this year and was already behind Mauricio Dubon.

This trade is also partly the reason why the Marlins aren’t budging on their asking price for catcher JT Realmuto this winter. They didn’t get enough back in the Yelich trade and need to make up for that somehow. The best way to do that is to get a team to overpay for their last remaining trade chip, Realmuto.

January 25th, 2018 will go down in Milwaukee Brewers history as a huge turning point for the franchise. They acquired one of the best players in the game, and got him not only on a team friendly salary, but gave up less than they probably should’ve to acquire him.

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No matter what happens with Brinson and the rest of the players the Brewers gave up to get Yelich, this trade will always be viewed as going in Milwaukee’s favor. With what he’s brought so far and what we believe he can bring, this trade is definitely lopsided the Brewers direction.

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