The Yankees were getting a 28-year-old MVP outfielder coming off of a 59 homer season. On top of it, they didn’t have to surrender any top major league or minor league players in the deal. Sure, Starlin Castro was a solid second basemen, but 21 year old phenom Gleyber Torres was waiting in the wings.
It was a matter of when, not if, Torres would take Castro’s job. Despite the trade being a slam dunk for the Yankees, what if there was a younger, better, cheaper outfielder from the Marlins that was also available at the time?
In 2017, Yelich was coming off of a solid age-25 season. He had slashed .282/.369/.439 with 18 homers, and had been remarkably consistent over his first five seasons. He hit at least .280 every year with an on base percentage of .360 or better. Yelich was also an elite defender, having won the gold glove in 2014. He played an incredible right field and a solid center field, making him extremely versatile. As durable as they come, he played in 155 games in 2016 followed by 156 games in 2017. The best part? His seven year, $49.5 million contract that he had just signed was a bargain.
Sure, Stanton was coming off of a historic 2017, but there was still evidence that Yelich could be the better piece moving forward. Yelich was two years younger than Stanton, was a better defender, and his sweet left handed swing was tailor made for the Bronx. He cost a fraction of the price, and his speed, left handedness and versatility could offer the Yankees some variety. In fact, they essentially already had a Stanton clone, the hulking six-foot-seven, 280 pound right fielder, Aaron Judge.
Since the trade
Last year, Yelich continued to improve while Stanton had a solid but unspectacular season. Yelich slashed a ridiculous .326/.402/.598 and cruised to the 2018 National League MVP award. Stanton slashed a respectable .266/.343/.509, but struggled in October and took a lot of the blame from an impatient and restless Yankee fan base that was expecting the team to get to the World Series. This year, it has been no contest. Yelich is leading the major leagues in pretty much everything. He’s hitting .353 and already has 13 homers and 31 RBIs. Stanton is going to miss the entire month of April with a bicep strain.
Hindsight is 20-20
It’s impossible to fault Cashman for trading for Stanton, but it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that Yelich has been much better since the trade. If I was the one in charge, I probably would’ve still made the Stanton trade instead of Yelich. However, Brian Cashman and his army of analytics staffers pride themselves on finding players that haven’t reached their potential, bringing them over cheap, and turning them into stars. Didi Gregorius, Aaron Hicks, and Luke Voit all come to mind. The Stanton trade was a great trade for the Yankees, but it’s a shame nobody in the organization realized there was a better option right under their noses.