The Phillies were interested in Christian Yelich for years. They weren't alone — every front office is interested in a very good, ascending player on a team-friendly contract.
But the Phils wanted him badly. What was there not to like? He's a five-tool player who always had the most important tool, the ability to hit.
When Derek Jeter took over the Marlins and the purge began, Yelich was made available. The Brewers beat out other offers, trading Miami a package of outfielders Lewis Brinson and Monte Harrison, middle infielder Isan Diaz and right-handed pitcher Jordan Yamamoto.
Brinson, Harrison and Diaz were all regarded as top-100 prospects league-wide at some point over the last two years. Brinson was the biggest name of the group, a former first-round pick by the Rangers.
You may recognize Brinson's name from the Phillies' prior dealings with Texas. As reported by our Jim Salisbury, when the Phillies negotiated the Cole Hamels trade with the Rangers, they chose Nick Williams over Brinson because they thought Williams was closer to the big leagues.
The Rangers ended up trading Brinson to the Brewers on Aug. 1, 2016, for Jonathan Lucroy, and then the Brewers used him to acquire Yelich, the favorite to win NL MVP.
No player who changed teams this past offseason has made more of a difference than Yelich. J.D. Martinez would be next on the list but is a DH. Yelich adds value with his above-average defense and speed.
Since the All-Star break, Yelich leads the National League in batting average, slugging, OPS, homers, RBI and runs scored. He's done it for a team that clinched a postseason berth Wednesday and is still fighting to win the NL Central.
On Tuesday night, Yelich added to his MVP case with a three-run triple and a three-run homer over the desperate Cardinals.
The Brewers acquired Yelich and Lorenzo Cain on back-to-back days this offseason. Those moves may end up deciding the National League pennant.
The Phillies, meanwhile, will likely make their splash this offseason. Adding Carlos Santana and Jake Arrieta were more so B-level moves, and there's obviously no comparison between the 2018 production of those duos.
Not acquiring Yelich was a bummer for every team involved in the trade talks other than the Brewers. It especially hurt the Phillies, who saw him up close for five years and figured what he would be capable of as he reached his prime and in a more hitter-friendly ballpark.
Aside from Aaron Nola, the Phillies haven't been able to develop a star in recent years. Rhys Hoskins is a very, very good player and could finish his first full season with 35 homers and 100 RBI, but he doesn't have the all-around package of a Christian Yelich, who was on the cusp of superstardom.
Players like Yelich don't become available often. Perhaps he would have cost more for the Phillies to acquire than the Brewers because the Marlins didn't want to face him 19 times a year. Perhaps it would have required more than just a comparable package from the Phils involving Williams and several prospects at Single A or Double A.
But every difference-making extra-base hit from Yelich this summer and as he enters his prime will be a reminder of what could have been.