Milwaukee Brewers superstar Ryan Braun played 104 games in 2017. For most, that would mean an injury plagued season that failed to live up to expectation. In Braun’s case, the 2017 season was actually a success.
Ryan Braun posted a 1.5 WAR in 2017. That’s a far cry from his peak value at 7.0+, but he brought more to the table than he took off, and provided a much needed run producer to the heart of the Milwaukee Brewers lineup.
What went right for Braun in 2017
When he was in the lineup, he produced. He managed double digit homers, double digit steals, and over 50 RBIs and runs scored in 425 plate appearances. Braun slashed .268/.336/.487, and generally looked like Ryan Braun at the plate and in the field. This was a solid effort from a player in his age-33 season.
What went wrong for Braun in 2017?
The injuries were the biggest issue for Braun in 2017. He suffered through a few calf injuries in the first half, and claimed to have a wrist injury in the second half. Wrist injuries are notoriously tough on power hitters, and it’s not a shock that Braun’s power production slipped after the All-Star Break. He hit only seven homers in 64 games in the second half.
At this point in Braun’s career, he’s going to miss somewhere between 30-to-50 games. He’s either going to need a few days off, or he’s going to pick up a nagging injury. Even if he starts the season completely healthy, he’s unlikely to avoid the disabled list.
What does Braun do in 2018?
When Braun is healthy, he can produce with the bat, and he still has enough in his legs to contribute defensively. If he’s healthy, he’ll produce. It’s really that simple. However, where Braun produces is a question that the Milwaukee Brewers have to address.
Is there a trade in the works for Braun?
Braun is on the hook for $53 million over the next three years with a team option worth $15 million with a $4 million buyout. That’s a commitment of at least $57 million until 2020. At this point in Braun’s career, he’s better off moving on to the American League where he can transition into a DH role.
The problem for the Milwaukee Brewers is that Braun has a full no-trade clause, and is on record stating that the only team he wants to move to is the Los Angeles Dodgers. There really isn’t a fit for a Braun-to-L.A. deal. Braun can stay in Milwaukee until his contract runs out, and there’s nothing the Brewers can do.
The Milwaukee Brewers have a host of young outfielders fighting for roster spots, but they’re going to have to live with Ryan Braun in left field for the foreseeable future. With Domingo Santana emerging as the everyday right fielder, the young Brewers outfielders will either have to fit into center, or become trade bait.
The good news is that Braun is also open to a transition to a first base role. That may free up an outfield spot, but it calls into question the status of Eric Thames and Jesus Aguilar. There’s no easy answer to the questions around Ryan Braun, and it’s a situation that the team will have to monitor and plan for as long as he’s in the fold.