The Milwaukee Brewers got better. The first thing to note is there’s a team that’s still trying, and they got better. The odds that Lewis Brinson is ever as good as Christian Yelich are low, if only because Yelich is that good. And Yelich is just a couple of years older than Brinson, too. The Brewers included three other prospects to make up for the cost-certainty gap, but this is still a bird-in-the-hand situation. The Brewers had every reason to take that bird, especially when he’s a left-handed bird who should do extremely well in lefty-friendly Miller Park.
The Brewers did well for a team that was short on top-tier talent. They exchanged volatile tech stocks for cash, and even if one of those stocks becomes the next Amazon, they’ll get to keep the cash for when they need it. The sweet, sweet cash that they need right now.
Aaaand while I was typing that, they spent that cash on Lorenzo Cain. The Brewers will have more moves coming, with a mess of Ryan Braun, Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, and Brett Phillips all fighting for one spot over the next several years. There are some trades for starting pitchers coming, I would guess, and they’ll be a compelling team this year.
I’m not interested in the Brewers right now, though. They’re acting like a normal, exciting team, and that’s boring, what with all the excitement. No, I’ve been on the Marlins beat for a few months now, and there’s no reason to let up now on this post-Jeffrey Loria hellscape. It’s extremely gross.
The Marlins did well enough to get the Brewers’ top prospect, but they’re still unfathomably gross. Bruce Sherman and friends got the Marlins through a leveraged buyout, and now they’re selling all of the assets to pay themselves back. The only surprise is that they decided to get good prospects instead of working a deal where they stapled half of Wei-Yin Chen’s contract to Yelich and got a D-minus prospect back. Good for them?
When the new Marlins owners bought the franchise, here’s what they had:
- A ballpark that was mostly paid for through public financing
- A large, untapped market that would benefit from an ownership group that wasn’t weird as all hell for once
- The best outfield in baseball
- An outfield that had the potential to be one of the best outfields in baseball history
They still have the ballpark. And while Derek Jeter sits in a comfy office chair, shooting a tiny rubber basketball through a desktop hoop, watching the remake of Red Dawn and screaming “Wolverines!”, everything that could have possibly been attractive to Marlins fans is gone. Also, Dee Gordon. Also, J.T. Realmuto (give it a few days.) The Marlins started with five position players that were desirable to other teams. Soon, they’ll have none. That’s baseball for you, or something.
Once the Marlins traded Marcell Ozuna, it was obvious they had to trade Yelich, which means it’s obvious they have to trade Realmuto. Without context, Yelich for a top-30 prospect and several attractive prospects is a fair deal for a rebuilding team. It’s the whole plan that I hate.
It’s the idea that rich people who didn’t know what pine tar was bought a team and roped Jeter in to teach them about pine tar, and then they ate all the pine tar. They looked at one of baseball’s greatest superstars — one of baseball’s only marketable superstars — in the prime of his career and decided he wasn’t cost effective.
After that was done, what was the point of the rest of it? You know, trying? So overrated.
Here’s what the Marlins gave up, and here’s why it makes me so mad:
In the history of baseball, there have been only 30 teams that have had a trio of three-win outfielders who were 27 or younger. The 2017 Marlins were one of them. And they felt like winning was too hard, even if they knew it wasn’t going to be too expensive. So they gave up.
Those other teams? Oh, there are some doozies. Try this one: Carlos Beltran, Johnny Damon, and Jermaine Dye for the 1999 Royals. If the Royals had signed them all to 10-year contracts, they wouldn’t have been disappointed. There are Garret Anderson, Jim Edmonds, and Tim Salmon for the 1995 Angels, and 10-year contracts would have only been dicey at the end, just barely.
Some of the outfields had two Hall of Famers in them (Ty Cobb and Sam Crawford, Harry Hooper and Tris Speaker), and some of them should have (Jim Rice and Dwight Evans). Most of them will have at least one player who gets a few votes.
Instead, the Marlins decided, nah, not for us. They became the 1994 Expos, looking at Moises Alou, Marquis Grissom, and Larry Walker and thinking there was no way out of that jam. They became the 1973 Giants, who somehow stumbled into a post-Mays scenario where they had Bobby Bonds, Garry Maddox, and Gary Matthews and managed to screw it up completely*.
* The Giants also traded a 21-year-old George Foster away because of that traffic jam, so as far as young-outfield screwups go, the Marlins still have a goal to top.
None of these dissolutions looks good! If the 1984 Padres ditched Carmelo Martinez, Kevin McReynolds, and Tony Gwynn, it would have screwed up their franchise immeasurably. There’s no Big Red Machine if the Reds don’t want to keep Foster, Ken Griffey, and Cesar Geronimo around. Evans/Lynn/Rice was the outfield of the ‘70s, and Barfield/Moseby/Bell was the outfield of the ‘80s. If you get all of those guys to your FanFest today, the crowd will go bonkers.
There’s a chance that one or all of the outfielders the Marlins ditched were going to go the way of Rich Coggins, but it was extremely unlikely. These weren’t flashes in the pan. We didn’t spend last season wondering where any of the Marlins’ outfielders came from. These were proven powerhouses. All three of them. None of them a defensive liability. One of them on a historic trajectory. All 27 or younger.
But the gears of Project Wolverine are oiled with the blood of...younger, cheaper outfielders, apparently. There is a chance that the sum of every outfielder in the organization, from A-ball to the majors, won’t be worth more than Yelich, Ozuna, and Stanton combined next year. It’s a very real chance.
Even when you forget about the prospects, though, it’s hard not to shake your head and wonder what might have been. The Marlins had it, man. They had the outfield of the gods, young and mostly under contract. In five years, the oldest one was going to be 32, which is still young enough to keep going.
They had it. They had it, and they blew it. Other teams have blown it before. Other teams will blow it again. It just hurts when it happens.
The current owners of the Marlins will eventually sell at a profit, of course. Maybe I’m the dummy.
Gonna be in the tub if you need me.