Blue Jays prospect Frankie Barreto was on top of the world in 2014. Ranked one of the top international prospects in 2012, he was fresh off an MVP season in the Northwest League at the tender age of 18, playing against players 3 and 4 years older. He was still several years away, but the sky seemed to be the limit.
Barreto was one of the major pieces of the deal with Oakland that brought Josh Donaldson to Toronto that November. Admittedly, while I was thrilled to be getting a player like Donaldson, Barreto seemed a stiff price to pay.
With all due respect to Barreto, who was ranked Oakland’s top prospect entering this season (but slipped a bit in two strikeout-prone stints with the Athletics), boy, was I wrong. Donaldson, a late bloomer, was coming off his first All Star season, and was just entering his prime. The Blue Jays have enjoyed 21 WAR from Donaldson since then, while Barreto has yet to prove himself on the big league level. It was Alex Anthopoulos’ best deal, one that he would no doubt make 100 times out of 100 if given the opportunity to make it again.
And today we’ve seen rumours that the fire-saleing Miami Marlins are in talks with the Blue Jays to send one of their top prospects in SS Bo Bichette for Marlins’ OF Christian Yelich.
Bichette may not be the Blue Jays top prospect, but there are many similarities between him and Barreto. Both have advanced hit tools, some speed, and outstanding baseball IQ’s. While both started out as Shortstops, the long-range plan for both seems to be across the bag at 2nd – Barreto already made the move last year. At this point in his career, Bichette may be a bit more advanced as a prospect, but he’s also two years older than Barreto was at a similar juncture.
Yelich has averaged 120 OPS+ for Miami during his five seasons with the team. He signed a contract extension near the end of spring training of 2015 – a 7 year, $49.570 million guaranteed deal. The deal will see Yelich bring in $7 million this year, rising to $14 million by 2021. There is a club option of $15 million for 2022, with a $1.25 million buyout. The money may be guaranteed, but it’s a relatively team-friendly deal.
If the two teams are in fact talking, Bichette won’t be the sole return for Yelich, but he would be the centrepiece. Other prospects will likely be included, but with the Marlins not getting a BA Top 100 for either Giancarlo Stanton or Marcell Ozuna, it’s hard to see much beyond the mid-prospect range. Derek Jeter is obviously strapping on the tool belt for a full-on rebuild.
Do the Blue Jays make this deal? Do they trade away a prospect who led the minor leagues in hitting (flirting with .400 until late June) , has great bloodlines, and profiles as an impact bat at the MLB level one day?
In a word – yes.
- In acquiring Yelich, you are getting a proven MLB-er who is a borderline All Star. Without having to give up anyone on your 25-man roster.
- There is no doubt that Bichette has huge upside. And the Blue Jays have been burned before – Noah Syndergaard was at a similar point in his career when he was dealt. That Barreto and Daniel Norris have yet to set MLB afire demonstrates that prospects are just that – there is not guarantee. Barreto has been exposed a bit this year, and the same could happen to Bichette as he moves up the ladder.
- In dealing a prospect, the Blue Jays are dealing from a position of strength. Vladdy Jr and Anthony Alford are on their way, and they have a decent SS prospect in Logan Warmoth. There is depth in the system to withstand the trade of one of its more promising members.
- There certainly is an opening in the Blue Jays Outfield. Kevin Pillar may have had a higher DRS total, but the drop off in CF would not be significant with Yelich. Or he could nicely fit in a corner spot.
- There is contract certainty and at least four years of control with Yelich – at 26, he should just be coming into his prime.
- With the Yankees having acquired Stanton, the Blue Jays need to upgrade their 25-man ASAP if they hope to contend in 2018.
- Yelich certainly fits GM Ross Atkins expressed desire for team to get younger and more athletic.
There is no guarantee this deal happens, of course. It will all depend on the Marlins’ demands. Of course, with most teams, once you get past the first half-dozen or so in the rankings, you are looking less and less at potential impact players – and the Blue Jays are no exception. Even if the additional cost was one or more of, say, Ryan Borucki, Hagen Danner, or Riley Adams, the aquisition of a player of Yelich’s calibre would be more than worth it.
Those of us who follow prospects closely tend to live and die with these kids. It’s hard to see them go, but I feel foolish for even briefly lamenting the loss of Barreto. As they say, prospects are good, but parades or better. Christian Yelich does not bring the possibility of a World Series victory with him, but he would be a substantial roster upgrade.