St. Louis Cardinals: Stop whining about Christian Yelich being a Brewer

ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 24: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits an RBI double against the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on September 24, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - SEPTEMBER 24: Christian Yelich #22 of the Milwaukee Brewers hits an RBI double against the St. Louis Cardinals in the ninth inning at Busch Stadium on September 24, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Many St. Louis Cardinals fans are tired of Christian Yelich obliterating their team at the plate, but their misguided anger goes deeper than that.

Brewers’ outfielder Christian Yelich is hitting .524 with eight home runs in six games against the St. Louis Cardinals this season. Those are numbers that even Barry Bonds would envy. It’s not fair. Every pitcher the Cardinals have sent up to face Yelich has gotten burnt in some way.

Yelich could win an MVP this year off of just playing against us, and a lot of fans have been complaining about why the Cardinals traded for Marcell Ozuna over Christian Yelich. It’s a complicated situation, and it looks pretty bad on the Cardinals given the current level of performance of the two players.

But how did we get here?

Let’s take a look back to 16 months ago.

In the offseason following the 2017 season, the Cardinals were in desperate need a big, middle-of-the-order bat to drive in runs for a team trying to contend. In order to fill that need, they dipped into the trade market and acquired Marcell Ozuna from the rebuilding Marlins.

Despite establishing a formidable core in Miami, they decided to tear it down and build for the future. Slugger Giancarlo Stanton was dealt to the Yankees and 3 days later, Ozuna was the next piece to go.

The Cardinals got their big bopper. Ozuna was coming off his age 26 season in which he posted career highs in nearly every offensive category: 37 home runs, 124 RBIs, 149 OPS+. Ozuna also earned a Gold Glove in 2017 for NL outfielders. He looked to be the missing piece that would lead the team back to October baseball.

In return, the Cardinals sent their #6 prospect (OF – Magneuris Sierra), #9 prospect (RHP – Sandy Alcantara) and #22 prospect (RHP – Zac Gallen). For an All-Star caliber outfielder, the price was definitely right and the opportunity was seized by the Cardinals-everybody was rightly happy.

5 weeks later, the Marlins dealt the last piece of their outfield trio by sending Christian Yelich to the Brewers. Yelich had been a solid hitter for the entirety of his major league career but never showed the upside that Ozuna had. Coming off a season where Yelich posted just 18 home runs, 81 RBIs, and a 120 OPS+, he was a good-not-great hitter.

The return for Yelich was much greater than that for Ozuna. The Brewers sent their #1, #8, #16, and another unranked prospect to Miami. His price tag was higher due to a very team friendly, seven-year extension that he signed prior to the 2015 season that takes him through the 2021 season.

Let’s bring it back to present day.

Christian Yelich is fresh off a 2018 season that saw him win the NL MVP, and come within inches of winning the first NL Triple Crown since 1937.

The good-not-great hitter became an absolute tank at the plate last year. A slash of .326/.402/.598 accompanied by 36 home runs and 110 RBIs surpassed what many thought the young outfielder could do. He has also picked up right where he left off in 2019.

A down year in 2018, along with a massive deterioration on the defensive side for Marcell Ozuna left many fans restless and annoyed that they got the weak link of the Marlins’ fire sale.

Following his breakout 2017 campaign, Ozuna was as streaky as they come in 2018. His overall numbers disappointed. A .280/.325/.433 line with 23 home runs and 88 RBIs was not the ideal encore for Big Bear Ozuna and most importantly, wasn’t the batter the Cardinals thought they traded for.

The prevailing thought among some fans is that the Front Office in St. Louis is inept and don’t have the first clue what they are doing.

Sorry to rain on the mutiny, but it’s not their fault.

There have been many unpredictable circumstances that have lead to this point, and the fundamental flaw to see baseball as it truly is.

Why didn’t they trade for Yelich instead of Ozuna?

It’s pretty cut and dry: Yelich didn’t fit the bill.

The Cardinals already had 5 players with an OPS+ between 109-122. Tommy Pham posted a stellar 144, and Jose Martinez posted a 134 in limited ABs.

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The Cardinals grow “good” hitters on trees. Yelich was nothing they didn’t already have on the roster, and a new presence in the lineup was an absolute necessity. He was a breakout candidate for numerous years with analysts citing that he could become a middle of the order bat if he was able to alter his swing path to create a higher launch angle. That was a big “if”, and even the loftiest of projections didn’t predict he’d break out the way he did in 2018.

On the other hand, Ozuna showed he is the prototypical cleanup hitter that teams strive to employ. He was a home run threat every time at the plate and posted a .356 average with runners in scoring position in 2017. He was going to capitalize with high on-base hitters like Matt Carpenter, Dexter Fowler and Pham batting ahead of him.

The Brewers also parted with their top prospect (Lewis Brinson), who was also the #14 prospect in all of baseball, as well as the #96 prospect (Isan Diaz). That would’ve been the equivalent of the Cardinals trading Alex Reyes (#7 overall), one of Harrison Bader/Luke Weaver (#81/#83, respectively), then 2 more additional prospects. That is quite a haul of potential future value for a player who had never reached an All-Star game.

Why didn’t they stop the Ozuna trade after his shoulder injury was discovered?

The Front Office didn’t know it was this bad. They couldn’t have known it was this bad.

In an article from 2018, Derrick Goold wrote:

"“There was a physical that the Cardinals wanted to make that deal, and they had to orchestrate that at the same time as the other deal. So it happens, and the Cardinals were comfortable with the results — comfortable to the point of limiting his throwing program during the spring in an attempt to aid the shoulder and comfortable that his production at the plate last year with the same soreness was not reduced.”"

The condition of his shoulder has clearly deteriorated since the physical, and that is not something that the Front Office could’ve seen or prevented.

Why didn’t they trade for both Yelich and Ozuna?

This doesn’t even make sense to me, but it does come up quite often among St. Louis Cardinals fans.

They already had 2 outfielders locked into place. Incumbent left fielder (soon-to-be center fielder) Tommy Pham was coming off an 11th place MVP finish in 2017, which would’ve been even higher if he wouldn’t have spent April in AAA Memphis. Pham posted a 20/20 season along with a .306/.411/.520 line to solidify his spot in the outfield.

Dexter Fowler had a very fine season in the first year of his five year, $82.5M deal. He put up career highs in home runs (18) and slugging (.488), and despite bad defensive metrics, he was expected to be much better with a move to right field for 2018.

So by acquiring both Ozuna and Yelich, they would have a surplus of outfielders. Despite what some fans think, this isn’t like video games. Wheeling and dealing players isn’t easy and often doesn’t pay off. Acquiring both didn’t make sense unless they wanted to teach Ozuna to play 1st base (which actually doesn’t seem too bad in 2019).

Not to mention, they would have no farm system left after a trade of that magnitude. Acquiring those players would deplete the system like the Cardinals have never seen before. As a franchise that has a long history of developing young players, that definitely isn’t the way to go.

Next. David Freese in a red jacket and a convertible…Yes!. dark

The direct opposite career trajectories that Ozuna and Yelich have gone through since their own respective trades is not something that could’ve been forecasted, even with the most diligent of scouting. From now on, all we as fans can do it hope Cardinals’ pitchers can execute their pitches for the rest of the season to contain the hottest hitter on the planet as much as possible.