Atlanta Braves Blog

The Atlanta Braves blog by David O'Brien, baseball writer for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Braves won't trade Acuna for Yelich, still could add a big bat


As much as the Braves would like to trade for Marlins standout Christian Yelich and as terrific as their outfield would be for years to come if they paired him with Ender Inciarte and Ronald Acuna, the fact of the matter is, they aren’t likely to get him without including Acuna in the deal.

And the Braves simply aren’t including Acuna in any deal for Yelich or presumably anybody else. He’s too good, as close to untouchable as any prospect in baseball. The Braves aren’t trading Acuna. And that should be viewed as good news by any Braves fans who've seen this young dude play. Dynamic talent. Truly elite.

By the way, while I'm thinking about it, some other good news for Braves fans: Nothing's been announced, but I'm hearing that both Terry Pendleton and Eddie Perez will return to the Braves in some sort of special assistant roles for 2018. The two popular former Braves players and longest-tenured Braves coaches were both dropped from the coaching staff after the 2017 season.

Getting back to the pursuit of a bat: I do think there’s still a decent chance the Braves will add a hitter with power who could bat behind Freddie Freeman in 2018, but at this point it seems more likely from people I’ve talked to that it would come at third base if they could sign a free agent to a short-term deal. In this glacier-slow free-agent market, would someone like Todd Frazier -- 102 homers over past three seasons -- perhaps accept a two-year deal instead of three or four years that most had originally assumed he’d command?

Stay tuned. If that happens, I could see the Braves making a push for him or another short-term commitment. But I still wouldn’t expect to see the Braves go more than two years – if that – for a free-agent third basemen because they don’t want to block Austin Riley, who could be ready during the 2019 season. And the Braves seem prepared to go with Johan Camargo and/or Rio Ruiz at third base this season rather than do something they aren’t comfortable doing to fill the spot.

As for Yelich, the Marlins are understandably shooting for the moon in their demands for him from the many teams that have expressed interest in Yelich over the past 5-6 weeks, including the Braves. They are asking for multiple young players/prospects in any deal for Yelich, and so far, the prospect package would have to include the top prospect, for starters, from any team.

Peter Gammons reported that the Marlins told the Braves that any deal for Yelich has to include Acuna as the primary part of the return package, and I can confirm that is the case. The Marlins are demanding Acuna from the Braves, and as long as they continue to demand that he be part of any deal for Yelich, you can cross the Braves off the potential landing spots for Yelich.

As I said, I don’t blame the Marlins for asking for Acuna from the Braves and the top prospect(s) from any other team interested in Yelich, a damn good all-around player who’s entering his prime years and is under contractual control for up to five more years for a very reasonable $58.25 million including a $15 million team option in 2022.

Yelich turned 26 last month, has already won a Gold Glove award and a Silver Slugger award, can play solid center-field defense and exceptional corner-outfield D, and over the past two seasons he hit .290 with 118 extra-base hits (39 homers), a .373 OBP and .460 slugging percentage.

Did we mention he’s owed just $7 million in 2018 and $9.75 million in 2019, making him not just the best available outfielder, but also the most affordable one for the next couple of seasons. Even the highest guaranteed salary in his contract is relatively modest $14 million in 2021.

So if the Marlins don’t find a team to meet their asking price, they have no reason to trade Yelich, even though his agent came out and said this week that the relationship is broken and that his client should be traded because the Marlins are in rebuild mode and already dealt Giancarlo Stanton and Marcell Ozuna, the other two pieces of what had been an exceptional young outfield.

Yeah, the agent and the player probably want to be traded, but Yelich isn’t the type to pout or be a malcontent in the clubhouse, and he certainly isn’t the type to give anything less than his best. The Marlins know this, everybody who knows him knows this. So if they have to hang onto him for a while, till July or till next winter or whenever, to get the return on Yelich that they feel is appropriate, then they will probably wait. And they should.

Meanwhile, Braves fans probably shouldn’t get their hopes up because as long as the Marlins are demanding Acuna, there will be no Yelich trade to Atlanta. Nor should there be. Because as much as I like Yelich and think he’d be a great addition and worth giving up a couple of pitching prospects to get, there’s no way I’d consider trading Acuna, who I believe has a legitimate chance to be better than Yelich by, oh, Acuna’s second season in the majors.

Seriously.

And I’m not alone in that assessment. I talked to Jim Leyland after he managed the U.S. team to the gold medal in the World Baseball Classic, and the first player Leyland mentioned to me was Yelich. He loved having him on his team.

None other than soon-to-be Hall of Famer Chipper Jones had uncharacteristically lavish praise when I asked him about Acuna during the wide-ranging interview I did with Chipper that ran in three parts this week on myAJC.com and in the AJC print edition. (Here are the links to that interview: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)

This was Chipper’s response when I asked him a general question about whether he still thought the future looked bright for the Braves in the near future:

“I think so. Obviously some of these highly touted prospects are going to have to come up and get their feet wet and get their sea legs under them. I’m extremely excited about Acuna, I think this kid’s going to be the next Trout, the next Harper here in the next three or four years. I put up some pretty lofty expectations on him, I think this kid’s going to be a top-five player in the game within two or three years. He’s got that kind of ability, he’s got that I-make-the-game-look-easy kind of Andruw Jones feel in the outfield, and he can flat-out rake.

“He’ll hit the ball out of the ballpark to all fields. I expect him to hit .300, I expect him to steal some bases, and I expect him to play Gold Glove defense. And I expect him to hit in the middle of the lineup. When you do all those things, you’re talking about a five-tool, perennial All-Star, MVP candidate.”

Whew. Read that quote again. That’s unlike any praise I’ve heard Chipper give any prospect.

And when I followed up by mentioning to Chipper how Acuna stood out watching him in the Arizona Fall League on a field full of top prospects, he said, “Yeah, see that’s the thing that gets you. When I first saw Andruw (Jones), he was 16, 17 years old and he was playing against 19- and 20-year-olds, and I didn’t even have to see a ball being hit. He was the ballplayer standing out there. And this guy (Acuna) is the same way. Once you see him move and once you see his bat speed and see his feel for hitting at such a young age – because he hits the ball to all fields, with power – it’s pretty impressive. So the Braves got a good one. Make sure he’s ready when the time comes and he should take off.”

• The rockin', bluesy badass Janis Joplin was born this day in 1948. She was a force of nature. Check this out.

"PIECE OF MY HEART" by Janis Joplin/Big Brother and the Holding Company 

Oh, come on, come on, come on, come on!

Didn't I make you feel like you were the only man - yeah!

An' didn't I give you nearly everything that a woman possibly can ?

Honey, you know I did!

And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I've had enough,

But I'm gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough.

I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,

Take it!

Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!

Oh, oh, break it!

Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Oh, oh, have a!

Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,

You know you got it if it makes you feel good,

Oh, yes indeed.

You're out on the streets looking good,

And baby deep down in your heart I guess you know that it ain't right,

Never, never, never, never, never, never hear me when I cry at night,

Babe, and I cry all the time!

But each time I tell myself that I, well I can't stand the pain,

But when you hold me in your arms, I'll sing it once again.

I'll say come on, come on, come on, come on and take it!

Take it!

Take another little piece of my heart now, baby.

Oh, oh, break it!

Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah,

Oh, oh, have a!

Have another little piece of my heart now, baby,

You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good.

I need you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it,

Take it!

Take another little piece of my heart now, baby!

Oh, oh, break it!

Break another little bit of my heart, now darling, yeah, c'mon now.

Oh, oh, have a

Have another little piece of my heart now, baby.

You know you got it - whoahhhhh!!

Take it!

Take it! Take another little piece of my heart now, baby,

Oh, oh, break it!

Break another little bit of my heart, now darling, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,

Oh, oh, have a

Have another little piece of my heart now, baby, hey,

You know you got it, child, if it makes you feel good.


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About the Author

David O'Brien has covered the Atlanta Braves for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 2002.