A big offseason splash for the rebuilding White Sox?
After being rumored to potentially trade for Baltimore Orioles star Manny Machado last month during the Winter Meetings, the next name on many fans' offseason wish list is Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich.
Yelich is an intriguing candidate for the obvious reason that he's really good, but he also has an uncommon amount of team control remaining on his contract, as many as five years, to be exact. It all adds up to him being a far better fit for a rebuilding team like the White Sox than the aforementioned Machado, who is slated to hit free agency after the upcoming 2018 season.
According to a Friday report from Jon Heyman, the White Sox are one of many teams "expressing interest" in Yelich, who figures to be on the trading block soon given the Marlins' activity this offseason. The Fish, now headed by Derek Jeter, have already traded away several All-Star players, with Giancarlo Stanton going to the New York Yankees, Marcell Ozuna going to the St. Louis Cardinals and Dee Gordon going to the Seattle Mariners. Yelich, who would figure to fetch a hefty return package, is speculated to be the next to go, along with catcher J.T. Realmulto. Yelich's agent told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick a couple days ago that Yelich's relationship with the Marlins is "irretrievably broken."
Joining the White Sox on Heyman's reported list are the Philadelphia Phillies, Texas Rangers, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks and San Diego Padres.
That's obviously a lot of competition, but the White Sox and their stacked farm system would figure to line up well with any team looking to move a star major leaguer for a big package of prospects. With all the minor league talent general manager Rick Hahn has acquired over the past year-plus, there are more highly touted players than there are spots in the White Sox lineup and rotation of the future, meaning some of those players could eventually turn into trade candidates.
But the key word there is "eventually," and it might speak to why a Yelich trade doesn't quite make sense for the White Sox right this moment.
The White Sox aren't expected to contend for a championship in 2018, and that could very well be the case in 2019, as well. This year and perhaps the next will be dedicated to waiting for all these young players to develop, and when that process concludes, Hahn and his front office will have a far better idea of what they have and what holes they need to fill — be that through a big free-agent signing or a trade. But the team hasn't reached that point yet.
Of course, there's plenty to love about Yelich. The 26-year-old already has five big league seasons under his belt, with a collective .290/.369/.432 slash line and a combined 146 doubles in those years. Plus, the power numbers have spiked in the last two seasons, with 21 homers and 98 RBIs in 2016 and 18 homers and 81 RBIs last season. He's also a Gold Glove winner in the outfield and has that alluring contract that thanks to an option could keep him away from free agency until after the 2022 season, definitely past when the White Sox hope to be perennial contenders.
A hypothetical trade for Yelich makes much more sense than one for Machado, that's for sure. But the White Sox still have spent a lot of time and effort carefully laying rebuilding plans, and those plans would need to be drastically altered, one would assume, in order to land a Fish like Yelich. It makes far more sense for the White Sox to exercise the patience that Hahn preached at the Winter Meetings and wait to see exactly what they have — and where — with their mountain of prospects.