Outfielder Christian Yelich is "unhappy'' over the Miami Marlins' player exodus this offseason, sources told ESPN, but he wants to give the team's front office a chance to explain its rebuilding plan before he assesses his future with the franchise.
Yelich, who spoke earlier this offseason with Michael Hill, the Marlins' president of baseball operations, expects to have a follow-up conversation with Hill this week because he's trying to be "respectful'' of the organization, said a source familiar with the situation.
Now that the Marlins' new Derek Jeter-led ownership group has signed off on trading Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon and Marcell Ozuna in the quest to cut payroll, attention has focused on Yelich and catcher J.T. Realmuto, budding stars who are likely to attract considerable interest if they were made available in trades.
Realmuto's representatives at CAA spoke with the Marlins recently and expressed the catcher's desire to play elsewhere in 2018, said a source. Realmuto has only three years of service time, so he's not in a position to demand a trade -- only to convey his unhappiness and ask the club to accommodate his wishes to be dealt. Realmuto hit 15 home runs and ranked eighth among MLB catchers with a .765 OPS this season while earning a base salary of $562,500. That combination of production and affordability could make him a popular trade target.
Yelich, similarly, has no leverage to demand a trade. He has four years left on a multiyear contract that will pay him a guaranteed $44.5 million through 2021.
But Yelich's reasonable contract and track record -- he's a .290 career hitter with a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger Award on his resume at age 26 -- are likely to make him attractive to numerous suitors. According to sources, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Philadelphia Phillies and Atlanta Braves are among the clubs that have reached out to the Marlins on Yelich in recent days. The St. Louis Cardinals also expressed interest in Yelich before sending four prospects to Miami in a trade for Ozuna last week.
Marlins officials have privately characterized Yelich as "not in play,'' and an executive from one interested club said he's been given indications that Miami has no plans to trade him.
"We used the last couple of weeks continuing to lay the foundation for building a first-class, winning organization," Hill told ESPN on Monday. "Should we feel like we need to make a trade involving any of our under contract, controllable players, we will be the ones who initiate that conversation and always do what's best for the organization.''
Yelich's concerns about the direction of the Marlins appear to be both personal and professional in nature. While he's concerned about playing for a team that's gutting its roster, Yelich had also developed close friendships with Ozuna, Gordon and Stanton and envisioned a long run together with the franchise. Yelich signed his seven-year, $49.57 million contract extension with the Marlins in March 2015 -- a mere four months after Stanton agreed on a record-setting $325 million contract with Miami.
The Marlins have only so many options available in their desire to shed the additional $12-13 million required to reach their goal of a $90 million Opening Day payroll in 2018. According to multiple reports, their preferred course of action would be to move relievers Brad Ziegler and/or Junichi Tazawa and possibly pitcher Dan Straily rather than shop Yelich or Realmuto.