Christian Yelich regrets his tenure with the Marlins never yielded long-term success.
And in an interview with ESPN.com on Tuesday, Yelich said he and several of his former Marlins teammates know exactly when those hopes faded.
“From talking to the guys there — the guys who got traded and some of the guys who are still there — the consensus from our clubhouse is that everything changed after the tragedy with Jose,” Yelich told ESPN. “I think everybody figured our window to win was with him. You have a bona fide ace, a No. 1 starter, and you kind of have something there with that. It’s nobody’s fault what happened. It’s a tragedy in every sense of the word. Nobody could have seen that coming.”
Yelich, 26, signed a seven-year, $49 million deal with the Marlins in March 2015 just four months after Stanton signed his 13-year megadeal worth $325 million. But the Marlins never made the playoffs or finished with a winning record during his tenure in Miami.
Fernandez died in a boating accident on Sept. 25 just a week before the end of the 2016 season. The Marlins finished under-.500 the following season despite the team’s lineup finishing with the second-best batting average in the National League and an MVP season from Giancarlo Stanton, who hit 59 home runs.
“We went through that rebuild, and we were so close,” Yelich told ESPN. “We had all the pieces. If a few things break differently, you never know how things turn out. I think a lot of the guys feel that way. We were really close and had a chance to do something special with that group. We just weren’t able to get it done. And when you don’t get it done in this business, teams have to move on. That’s what happened with us.”
Yelich was subsequently one of multiple Marlins stars traded away in a payroll purge, along with Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Dee Gordon, soon after former owner Jeffrey Loria sold the club to a group led by Derek Jeter and Bruce Sherman.
Yelich was traded to the Milwaukee Brewers for outfielder Lewis Brinson and three minor-league prospects last month. The move came a week after Yelich’s agent, Joe Longo, reportedly said that Yelich’s relationship with the club was “irretrievably broken.”
On Tuesday, Yelich told ESPN that he had no hard feelings toward Jeter or the new Marlins ownership or how the situation was handled.
“I think it’s something that probably had to happen,” Yelich said in the interview. “The name of the game is to win, and we just didn’t get it done as a group there. Derek was my favorite player growing up. I had a lot of respect for him, and I still have a lot of respect for him.
“I don’t know how long it’s going to take, but I think people need to let things play out down there and give it a chance. People are going to say, ‘How come you didn’t give it a chance?’ That stuff takes time, and I didn’t know if it was going to get done in the amount of time I had left there. But I think it’s going to get better there. The fan base has been through a lot the past few years, but I truly believe this ownership group will do things different.”