It’s been well known that Ryan Braun has been on the trading block for some time now. The face of the Milwaukee Brewers franchise for the past ten years, looks to be on his way out. But this winter may be the last chance the team has to move their star outfielder.
Last August, he was nearly dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers. It seemed as if a market for Braun would spring up that winter and he would be as good as gone. But that didn’t happen. A market for Braun never really developed. The Milwaukee Brewers are still faced with a complicated and crowded outfield picture. And spending $19 million for the next couple years on an aging Ryan Braun isn’t exactly ideal.
But moving Ryan Braun allows the Milwaukee Brewers more financial flexibility. Also David Stearns and Craig Counsell can be more creative in structuring the outfield.
It will be difficult for Brewers GM David Stearns to create a market for Braun. He has to convince teams to consider acquiring a 33 year old outfielder who has dealt with calf and wrist injuries over the past couple years and the decrease in production that followed. And they will have to commit to him through 2020. Again, not an easy task.
But even in a down year for Braun, he still hit 17 homers with a .823 OPS over 380 ABs. If he was able to get a full season of ABs in, he likely would’ve hit 30 homers this year. Still, it’s a down season and a batting average of .268 is one of the lowest of his career.
So what could the market be for Ryan Braun. At best, it’s a very small market.
Who has a Need?
First, a team has to need an improvement in left field. This is vital on teams that are expecting to contend but not for teams that are rebuilding. So a team like the Chicago White Sox are out of the question. Teams with young outfielders that still have a lot of potential are also unlikely to pursue Braun.
In looking at all of the other 29 MLB clubs, here is the list of the teams that could search for an upgrade in left field.
- Los Angeles Angels
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Francisco Giants
- Seattle Mariners
- Washington Nationals
- San Diego Padres
- Kansas City Royals
That makes eight teams that could use an upgrade in left field this winter. The Angels have Justin Upton, but he appears likely to opt out and become a free agent. Prior to his arrival, the Angels were among the lowest in MLB in production from left field. If he opts out, they have a need.
The Blue Jays have a young Teoscar Hernandez, who hasn’t produced much yet but has a bright future. The Dodgers may move on from Curtis Granderson in free agency. The Giants had two young players in left and neither produced. The Mariners have Ben Gamel but could seek a veteran bat for a playoff push. Jayson Werth will leave the Nationals, leaving a hole. The Padres have little production but likely don’t care that much.
The Royals are already paying Alex Gordon a lot of money to not produce. To trade Braun to Kansas City means Alex Gordon would have to come to Milwaukee and that makes no sense for either side.
So that’s the market for Braun at it’s maximum. But there’s another factor to consider outside of team need.
Where Would Braun Accept A Trade?
Ryan Braun has 10-and-5 rights, meaning he has to approve any potential trade. We know that prior to gaining his full no trade clause, Braun had six teams not on that list which were the Angels, Diamondbacks, Marlins, Dodgers, Giants, and Padres. Conveniently, four of those six teams have a need at his position.
We know Braun is from California and would like to go back near his home in the event of any trade. But the Padres are rebuilding and won’t want to give up prospects to add an aging, costly player that doesn’t serve their purpose. Braun wouldn’t want to leave Milwaukee, where he has been for his entire career, who is just about done with a rebuild, to go to a new city that’s in the middle of a rebuild. San Diego is out.
The Marlins have Marcell Ozuna, they don’t need Braun. The Diamondbacks also don’t need Braun. Braun wouldn’t want to go to Seattle. The Nationals will need to save their money in an attempt to keep Bryce Harper. Adding $19 million in payroll doesn’t help that. Braun also wouldn’t want to go to Canada or Kansas City.
So this leaves three teams Ryan Braun would be willing to accept a trade to that also have a need at his position.
- Los Angeles Angels
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Francisco Giants
That’s Ryan Braun’s market at best. If Justin Upton opts out of the remaining four years on his contract and signs with another team, the Angels will likely look to JD Martinez on the open market. If they lose the bidding for Martinez then it’s possible they could call David Stearns about Braun, making him Plan C for Angels GM Billy Eppler at best.
The Dodgers were Braun’s favorite team growing up and he would love to play for them. But will the Dodgers pay David Stearn’s understandably high price? The Dodgers are notoriously reluctant to giving up any big prospects in trades. Now that Yasiel Puig is back on track, they don’t have a big desire to move him anymore. Curtis Granderson and Andre Ethier are free agents and they have the prospects to satisfy Stearns but may be unwilling to give them up.
The Giants’ combination of Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson was a disaster in left field this year. That certainly played a role in the Giants finishing in the cellar of the NL West in a year they were expected to compete. Apparently the Giants aren’t looking to rebuild but reload and make another push for the postseason. What better way to do it than by adding Ryan Braun to the middle of the lineup.
Who has the best chance?
Of the three teams, the Giants are the best bet to look at Braun, with the Dodgers a bit farther behind. For the Angels, three things need to happen before they even call about Braun. Justin Upton needs to opt out, then he needs to sign somewhere else, and JD Martinez needs to sign somewhere else.
The Angels have one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Don’t expect much in the way of prospects from them. The Giants farm is better than the Angels but it still isn’t stocked with a ton of talent but might have just enough to grab Braun. The Dodgers obviously have the best system of the three but will need to be coaxed into dipping into it.
The Giants have an immediate opening in left field and Ryan Braun fits what they need. And the Giants fit what Braun is looking for. Although San Francisco is a bit farther north of his home in Malibu than Los Angeles would be, it’s still closer than Milwaukee. The fact that the Giants are looking to reload instead of rebuild, shoots them right to the top of the candidates in the Ryan Braun sweepstakes.
With the Milwaukee Brewers putting the finishing touches on a rebuild that only Braun has seen all the way through, David Stearns could be happy enough to just keep him. He certainly wouldn’t sell Braun for nothing in an effort just to dump salary. In any case, the Brewers will likely have to eat money in a Braun deal to get it done.
The Milwaukee Brewers have likely gotten to the point where they’re not going to sell off veterans for prospects anymore. The odds of Braun starting in left field with Milwaukee next year are better than the odds of him in another jersey.
The market is small, but there wasn’t much of a market for Jonathan Lucroy at the Trade Deadline in 2016 either. After the vetoed deal to Cleveland, the Texas Rangers were really the only team left and Stearns did pretty well in that deal. A bidding war for Braun probably won’t happen but that doesn’t mean the Brewers can’t get good value for Braun.
Ryan Braun is not the player he once was. He’s getting old, he’s been injured a lot, and he’s seen a decrease in production. A fully healthy bounceback season in 2018 could definitely lead to a rebound in his market and higher demand for his services but could also lessen the likelihood that the Milwaukee Brewers would want to move him.
Both Lewis Brinson and Brett Phillips are pushing for playing time in 2018 and one of these outfielders needs to move. Keon Broxton would be easier to move, but moving Ryan Braun could be more important to the long term future of the Milwaukee Brewers.