Miami Marlins

Marlins, Christian Yelich reach agreement on 7-year, $50 million deal

Miami Marlins outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich are shown before a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter on Thursday, March 5, 2015.
Miami Marlins outfielders Giancarlo Stanton and Christian Yelich are shown before a spring training game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter on Thursday, March 5, 2015. El Nuevo Herald

The Marlins are starting to act like the New York Yankees and baseball’s other big spenders.

After signing Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year deal worth $325 million over the winter, the Marlins agreed to terms Wednesday with outfielder Christian Yelich on a seven-year deal that will pay him about $50 million.

A source confirmed the deal, which also comes with a team option for an eighth year and was first reported by former Marlins third baseman Mike Lowell on his Twitter account.

Since the deal has not been finalized, the Marlins have made no comment.

The Marlins have been in discussions with Yelich over a long-term contract since late last year.

Yelich, 23, has emerged as one of the major leagues’ top young hitters.

The former first-round draft pick of the Marlins hit .284 last season while winning the Gold Glove award as the National League’s top defensive left fielder.

“He’s very mature for his age,” Marlins manager Mike Redmond told reporters Wednesday morning, before news of the deal broke. “It’s amazing when you watch him play and watch his at-bats, and his approach, how professional they are at such a young age.”

Already regarded by many analysts as having the best outfield in the majors, the Marlins now have two-thirds of the trio — center fielder Marcell Ozuna rounds out the bunch with Yelich and Stanton at the corners — under contract through at least the 2021 season.

It’s a stark departure for the Marlins, long known for their frugality.

In the past, the Marlins have been reluctant about awarding long-term contracts to their players, often trading them before they were entitled to higher salaries through arbitration and free agency.

They traded Miguel Cabrera — a likely future Hall of Famer — just before he hit the salary jackpot. Before Stanton, the largest previous contract awarded by the Marlins belonged to Hanley Ramirez, who received a six-year, $70 million deal. Ramirez was traded to the Dodgers in 2012, before the end of that contract.

The megadeal with Stanton is not only the largest contract ever orchestrated by the Marlins, but it also represents the largest ever given to a professional athlete in North America.

Now comes Yelich, a gifted pure hitter who also provides doses of pop and speed. Yelich stole 21 bases last season, and many believe he gradually will improve on his home-run output of nine.

The Marlins’ first-round draft pick (23rd overall) in 2010, Yelich has blossomed into a dangerous “five-tool” threat, capable of winning games with his bat and glove.

“He’s hungry, and that’s what you want,” Redmond said. “You want young guys to come to the big leagues, and they aren’t satisfied with one good year. They want to be better, and that’s how you build championship teams, is to have young players that are hungry and want to win, and will do whatever they can to help the ball club.”

Yelich, whom the Marlins believe will eventually evolve into a middle-of-the-lineup hitter, was forced into a leadoff role last season — and he excelled. Among the 20 leadoff hitters with at least 400 plate appearances, Yelich ranked second in the majors with an on-base percentage — the key barometer for a leadoff hitter — of .365.

“He’s a great kid,” Redmond said. “He loves to compete and he’s a really good player.”

NOTES

▪  Stanton enjoyed his best day at the plate so far this spring, going 3 for 3 with his first home run Wednesday as the Marlins defeated the Washington Nationals 5-4.

“[Wednesday] was a good day, obviously,” Stanton said. “In terms of timing and barrel placement, it’s where I was wanting to be.”

Stanton hit a solo homer to right and also drove in a run with a single.

Mat Latos started for the Marlins, delivering three shutout innings before giving up two runs in the fourth.

▪ The clubhouse population is continuing to thin as the Marlins made more roster cuts Wednesday, with the latest round centered around high-level minor-leaguers on the team’s 40-man roster.

First baseman Justin Bour, infielder Derek Dietrich, catcher J.T. Realmuto, reliever Andre Rienzo and infielder Miguel Rojas were optioned to Triple A New Orleans, and pitcher Chris Narveson was reassigned to minor-league camp.

Wednesday’s reductions bring the spring roster to 44 players, meaning the Marlins must whittle 19 more before the season opener on April 6.

“These are guys we felt like weren’t going to make the team, and we wanted them to go down and get some at-bats,” Redmond said. “These are guys that have big-league time, so it’s a tough conversation. I’m sure they were wishing they were able to stay longer.”

It’s uncertain whether Narveson, a nonroster invitee, will accept the assignment and remain in the organization. But the Marlins are hoping he will.

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