Sometimes, you read something that makes you stop and think. Christian Yelich is thankful for his time with the Miami Marlins. The current Milwaukee Brewers outfielder was a fixture in the lineup down in south Florida, playing with Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and others. The one thing the former Miami centerfielder said that he regrets is not playing for a winning organization. Per Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com, Yelich cites the September 2016 death of pitcher Jose Fernandez in a boating accident as the unfortunate turning point for the Marlins.
Since Fernandez’s death, the Miami Marlins have not had a dominant, front-line ace. The Marlins contended for a National League wildcard spot with Fernandez on the bump. The team finished 79-82 in 2016. Fernandez had 16 wins before he passed away. In 2017, the Miami Marlins finished 77-85.
“From talking to the guys there — the guys who got traded and some of the guys who are still there — the consensus from our clubhouse is that everything changed after the tragedy with Jose,” Yelich told ESPN. “I think everybody figured our window to win was with him. You have a bona fide ace, a No. 1 starter, and you kind of have something there with that. It’s nobody’s fault what happened. It’s a tragedy in every sense of the word. Nobody could have seen that coming.”
Despite the team having a solid lineup – Marcell Ozuna having a career season with 37 home runs and Giancarlo Stanton smacking 59 dingers en route to the National League MVP, pitching was not the team’s strong suit. Also, the news of the team’s eventual sale played out through the entire season, only to be consummated in October. Current owners Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman tore apart the existing roster, seeking top-line prospects in return.
As Yelich added, “”We went through that rebuild, and we were so close. We had all the pieces. If a few things break differently, you never know how things turn out. I think a lot of the guys feel that way. We were really close and had a chance to do something special with that group. We just weren’t able to get it done. And when you don’t get it done in this business, teams have to move on. That’s what happened with us.”
Yelich’s move to Milwaukee brought Lewis Brinson in return, an outfielder who could become the face of the Miami Marlins franchise. While the Jeter-led Marlins were dismantled this offseason, it is a strong possibility that had he still be part of this organization, Fernandez would have been traded as well. There were a few rumors floating in small circles the Miami Marlins may have had to trade him after the 2016 season because they could not afford to keep him once his contract expired.
The Marlins traded players to reduce salary and costs for the franchise, as outlined in Jeter’s plan from Day 1. The offseason moves have not sat well with the fan base, remaining veterans on the roster and MLB. The player’s union has filed a grievance against the Miami Marlins and other teams for their business practices this offseason, which has been perceived as dumping players to avoid costs despite being a competitive franchise.
As Crasnick wrote, Yelich, 26, committed to the Marlins organization long-term in March 2015 when he agreed to a seven-year, $49.5 million contract extension, four months after Stanton signed a record-setting $325 million deal with the team. Yelich won a Gold Glove Award in 2014 and a Silver Slugger Award two years later, and logged an .800 OPS in five seasons as a Marlin.
Yelich was outspoken about how he did not approve of the Miami Marlins strategy for the upcoming year. His agent, Joe Longo, described his relationship with the Marlins as “irretrievably broken.” A week later, the Marlins traded him to Milwaukee for Brinson and three minor leaguers.