Christian Yelich is the latest Marlins standout to leave South Florida. On Thursday, Miami traded the outfielder to the Brewers for a quartet of prospects -- Lewis Brinson (outfielder), Isan Diaz (middle infielder), Monte Harrison (outfielder) and Jordan Yamamoto (right-handed pitcher).
Brinson, 23, was the Brewers' No. 1 prospect, per MLB Pipeline, and is the No. 13 overall prospect in the Majors. He made it to the big leagues for the first time last June. Though he struggled in 21 games -- slashing .106/.236/.277 with 17 strikeouts and seven walks in 55 plate appearances -- Brinson has impressed over six Minor League seasons, with a .287/.353/.502 line, 89 homers, 29 triples, 133 doubles, 322 RBIs and 96 stolen bases.
Diaz, 21, was the Brewers' Minor League Player of the Year in 2016 and was the club's No. 6 prospect. He is the No. 86 prospect in MLB. Scouting reports rave about Diaz's defense and potential to blossom into a power hitter at a premier defensive position. He is a career .261/.357/.458 hitter in 362 Minor League games over four seasons.
"I think we added three impactful position players -- Brinson, Diaz and Harrison," Marlins president of baseball operations Michael Hill said. "And I think you look at the deals that we've been able to make and to add the pitching [Yamamoto], which we obviously needed and that you can never have enough of, we felt like we added impactful, championship-caliber players, layers that will be part of future Marlins championships, that will reach the big leagues and allow us to bring a championship back to South Florida."
A 2012 first-round Draft pick by the Rangers, Brinson, who was dealt to Milwaukee in the Jonathan Lucroy trade in '16, is a graduate of Coral Springs (Fla.) High School. Scouts have raved about the ceiling of Brinson's power-speed combination and touted him as a potential 30-homer, 30-steal player. Hill said Brinson will immediately be added to the 40-man roster, while Diaz, Harrison and Yamamoto will likely begin the year at Double-A Jacksonville.
"Lewis has done everything he can throughout his Minor League career to put himself in this upper echelon of prospects throughout baseball," Brewers general manager David Stearns said. "We appreciate everything he did here and we certainly expect the Marlins and their fan base are going to get a very good player, a good person, and someone they are going to like."
In their first offseason under new ownership, the Marlins have been direct about their objective: gain financial flexibility, while building their farm system. The Marlins have succeeded in doing that this offseason.
"Christian Yelich is a talented player, as were all of the players we've moved this offseason," Hill said. "You want to get talent in return. You want to get impact, championship-caliber players, and that's what Lewis Brinson is. That's what Monte Harrison is. That's what Isan Diaz is, and that's what Jordan Yamamoto is."
Prior to Thursday's trade of Yelich, the Marlins had already traded a trio of All-Stars -- slugger Giancarlo Stanton to the Yankees, outfielder Marcell Ozuna to the Cardinals and second baseman Dee Gordon to the Mariners.
Yelich voiced his frustration with Miami's direction after those moves. However, Hill said that did not influence the deal.
"I think as we talked about what was in front of us and our offseason, we felt like we needed to get better," Hill said. "We had a collection of very talented players on our roster, but we couldn't get where we needed to go, so we felt like we needed to make some changes to build our organization, to create more depth to allow us to win on a consistent basis. To have an organization that has the layers of depth to have sustainable winning, and consistent winning, on an annual basis."
Harrison, 22, was Milwaukee's No. 14 prospect and its second-round pick in 2014. Over four Minor League seasons, Harrison slashed .243/.338/.392 with 33 homers, 57 doubles, 10 triples, 186 runs scored and 149 RBIs. He has been touted for his bat speed, and his high strikeout numbers may be attributed to a long swing and pitch-recognition issues that have the potential to be corrected, according to scouting reports.
"I think Monte really fast-tracked his development last year," Stearns said. "He had a healthy year and we saw his development come. Very athletic player, very enthusiastic player."
Yamamoto, 21, spent last year with Class A Advanced Carolina, going 9-4 in 22 games, including 18 starts. Over 111 innings, he struck out 113 and walked 30, while giving up just eight home runs. A 12th-round pick in 2014, Yamamoto recorded a 2.51 ERA last season that ranked 15th-best among full-season Class A pitchers.
Hill didn't indicate whether any additional moves will be coming. When asked about the upcoming season, he noted, "Our expectation every year [when] we report to Spring Training is to win as many games as possible."
"There have been conversations with [manager] Donny [Mattingly] and the staff all offseason, and that will always be our expectation, is to play the game the right way and win as many games as possible," Hill said. "I think that will always be our approach. That's our goal as we head to Spring Training."
The Marlins have been stockpiling prospects throughout the offseason. In addition to Thursday's haul, they landed outfielder Magneuris Sierra and pitchers Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen and Daniel Castano from the Cardinals for Ozuna. They received right-hander Jorge Guzman, shortstop Jose Devers and Starlin Castro from the Yankees, when they rid themselves of the $295 million remaining on the final 10 years of Stanton's contract. Gordon yielded three prospects -- right-handers Nick Neidert and Robert Dugger and infielder Chris Torres -- from the Mariners.
The Marlins have successfully reduced their payroll, which should bode well for doing business in the future. Meanwhile, the youngsters acquired should bring a different look to the team.
"I'm looking forward to watching us play," Hill said. "There's a lot of reason for our fans to be excited. When you think about the existing pieces that are still on our roster, the young players that we've been able to add ... there's athleticism, there's speed, there's power arms. I'm excited to see those guys report to Jupiter and to see them get ready for the upcoming season."
Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Yelich gets a major fantasy boost from this trade, as he will move from a retooling lineup in a pitcher-friendly park to a potentially potent order with more hitter-friendly confines. Overall, the 26-year-old should be regarded as a safe, five-category option in Round 5 of standard-league drafts. The arrival of Yelich will also cause Keon Broxton (20 homers, 21 steals in 2017) to move to a reserve role and come off mixed-league draft lists.
Meanwhile, in Miami, Brinson instantly becomes a deep-league sleeper due to his strong career Minor League numbers and his opportunity to earn a regular role in Spring Training.