November 6, 2009, is when the Milwaukee Brewers traded J.J. Hardy to the Minnesota Twins for Carlos Gomez.
I remember it well because it was the beginning of the off-season for baseball and I felt the Milwaukee Brewers should have waited for more offers before accepting the Twins’ deal. As I also recall, the consensus at the time was that J.J. Hardy would be traded because top-prospect, Alcides Escobar, was ready to assume the everyday shortstop duties for the upcoming year. Sounds familiar doesn’t it?
Except, I’m not advocating trading Jonathan Villar, despite his maddening base-running decisions. Instead, the Milwaukee Brewers should learn from Carlos Gomez’s struggles and trade Ryan Braun while the iron is hot.
After Ryan Braun was suspended for PED use in 2013, and after his thumb started giving him trouble, I never thought I’d see the Ryan Braun I rooted for ever again. But for about nearly the last year worth of play, Ryan Braun has returned to, well, Ryan Braun.
In fact, he’s having the best season of his career this season. So what does any of this have to do with Carlos Gomez? I’m glad you asked.
Carlos Gomez had two career year seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2013 and 2014. An excellent defender, he finally added a plus bat to his plus defense and was seemingly on the verge of superstardom.
But then something happened in 2015. According to FanGraphs, he started swinging at more pitches outside the strike zone, 64% to be exact, compared to 60% and 58% the previous two years. Opposing pitchers also threw him more sliders than ever before and a once well above hitter against fastballs (+16.4 in 2013), he no longer hits them for positive value (-2.8 in 2016).
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As you can see, a player’s value can change on a dime. Despite warning signs in 2015, the Houston Astros banked on the Carlos Gomez of 2013 and 2014. So far, their gamble hasn’t paid off. But the Milwaukee Brewers were able to obtain positive attributes based on his perceived and past value.
The Milwaukee Brewers find themselves in a similar position now with Ryan Braun, and I’d hate for them to sit on their hands so that they can fill a few more seats and gain a few more wins in the next year or two.
The questions the Milwaukee Brewers need to ask themselves is: Can Ryan Braun keep up his current pace and, if they believe he can, will he be that same player in two or three years and beyond?
We don’t know those either answer for sure, but I know which way I’d bet.
Trading a player that’s been the face of the franchise for so long is never easy–and we’ve already had these discussions with Jonathan Lucroy too–but the Milwaukee Brewers need to utilize their assets positively and trading Ryan Braun would ultimately be a positive for the Milwaukee Brewers.
I hope David Stearns feels the same way.