Yelich, Markakis share early career trajectory

Braves could expect similar output if trade were to happen

January 5th, 2018

ATLANTA -- Before committing to acquiring a controllable outfielder for this season, the Braves would likely need a plan in place to trade . And if the controllable outfielder they could acquire is , they would essentially be netting the young, healthy version of Markakis.

Looking to make a quick strike as some outfield-hungry teams were showing interest in and last month, the Braves felt like they made some progress in Yelich's direction. But as the Winter Meetings neared an end, the talks stalled as the Marlins assessed their situation and dealt with the backlash created by trading Stanton, Ozuna and Dee Gordon.

Approximately a month later, the Braves are just one of many teams who have eyes on Yelich. But they certainly have the prospect pool to pay the steep price the Marlins will be seeking for the 26-year-old outfielder who can be controlled for at least four more seasons at an average annual cost of $10.8 million.

Though the Braves would not be willing to include top prospect Ronald Acuna in the deal, they could appease the Marlins' desire to add a right-handed power-hitting prospect by including third baseman Austin Riley in a package that would also likely include a couple of Atlanta's pitching prospects.

While Riley's stock has soared over the past year, and there's a chance he could be Major League-ready at some point in 2019, the Braves could make this move with the confidence they have the financial flexibility necessary to make a serious bid for Manny Machado or Josh Donaldson during next winter's free-agent frenzy.

Hot Stove Tracker

As things stand, the Braves would open the season with an outfield mix that would include , Markakis and , who might share time in left field with . It's easy to assume Acuna will join Atlanta's roster during the early part of the season. But it's harder to predict the future for Markakis, who is owed $11 million as he enters the final year of his contract.

Yelich has essentially the same value and promise that Markakis had before he was hampered by a herniated disk that eventually led to him undergoing neck surgery just before he began his Braves career in 2015.

Through his first five Major League seasons (2,812 plate appearances), Yelich has hit .290 with a .369 on-base percentage, a .432 slugging percentage and 59 home runs. He has produced a 120 OPS+ during this span and has homered once every 42 at-bats.

Markakis hit .298/.368/.463 with 89 home runs through his first five MLB seasons (3,369 plate appearances). He produced a 119 OPS+ and a 33.6 AB/HR ratio within this span. Serving as a reminder of how significantly his game has changed since the neck surgery, he has produced a 101 OPS+ and 75.2 AB/HR ratio over the past three seasons with Atlanta.

Yelich's power numbers have been influenced by the fact he has played a majority of his games at cavernous Marlins Park. But he has recently trended in the right direction, as he has produced a 30.2 AB/HR ratio while hitting at least 18 homers in each of the past two seasons.

With a quick glance at Statcast™'s new Outs Above Average defensive metric, it might be concerning to see Yelich scored a minus-4 and Markakis scored a minus-5 this past season. But this was a product of the Marlins outfielder having to spend a majority of his time manning center field. While primarily playing left field in 2016, he scored a plus-6, which ranked 22nd among all outfielders with at least 100 opportunities.

The obvious drawback to Yelich's game is what is widely considered to be a below-average outfield arm. But if the Braves were to acquire him, they would place him in left field and allow Acuna to settle in at right.