Yesterday, the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo reported that Ryan Bruan is “the hot name out there” on the trade market, according to one National League scout. I suppose weirder things have happened. But before we go too crazy, let’s take a moment to remember that Cafardo also recently reported on the Pedro and Vlad for Derek Jeter trade discussions between the Expos and the Yankees that not only were largely false, but also never could have actually happened.
But let’s humor Cafardo and talk about Ryan Braun, who’s been having a great season. On its surface, trading Ryan Braun makes a ton of sense. He’s undoubtedly the most dynamic hitter who will be on the market this summer. Hitting .348/.420/.581 on the year with nine homers in 174 plate appearances, Braun has been performing just like he did in his prime for the Brewers. Also, with the Brewers in a full-on rebuild, the 32 year old Braun doesn’t really make sense for them as a building blog.
But there are massive obstacles to any Braun trade. The biggest, by far, is his contract. Braun is in the first year of a five year, $100 million extension. While that’s not nearly as eye-popping as it used to be, it’s still the eighth largest AAV for an outfielder in baseball today. Whoever acquires him would presumably be on the hook for the bulk of that money. Another barrier is Braun’s injury history, which is full of nagging problems that have limited his effectiveness, like the sore neck that just sidelined him for three games. And finally, there’s his defense, which has never been good and is only going to get worse. His team will either have to live with that, try to convert Braun into a first baseman, or shift him to DH before long.
(Notice I’m not even talking about the PED thing? Good. Because it doesn’t matter for these purposes. So I’m not discussing it. But if I don’t include this aside, one of you is going to tell me I didn’t even talk about the PED issue that, again, has no bearing on his current value. So I just had to nip that in the bud.)
But ok, let’s say that that doesn’t scare someone off. What’s a fair return for a player with this many warts? We don’t often see guys at the beginning of a long-term deal getting traded at the deadline. That seems to be more of an offseason decision. But maybe last year’s Troy Tulowitzki trade can give us some guidance. Tulo and Braun were/are elite hitters and were/are the respective faces of their franchises. They also share the propensity for nagging injuries.
There are differences, of course. Braun is two years older than Tulowitzki was. Tulo played a premium position, and handles it better than Braun handles his. But he was also signed for an extra year and $19 million when he was dealt with LaTroy Hawkins for three minor league pitchers and Jose Reyes. That deal was not highly regarded at the time, and that was before Reyes’s suspension for domestic violence. Still, three good arms and a quality (at the time) major leaguer seems like it could be the going rate for Braun’s ilk. Is that enough to get the Brewers to pull the trigger?
And, more importantly, can they convince someone to play the role of the Blue Jays? Cafardo lists the Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants, and White Sox as good fits. Are any of these likely landing spots?
· I think we can pretty clearly rule out the Phillies, who know they aren’t this good.
· The Astros are seven games below .500, and would have to view this as a play for the long term. Frankly, I have a hard time believing that they’d make this kind of commitment in the middle of a season.
· The Mets won’t spend that money unless the Brewers will take back Curtis Granderson.
· The Cardinals have the minor league arms to make something happen, but they also don’t really have a place to play Braun with Holliday and Piscotty in the corners.
· The Giants might be a fit, with a wealth of middle infield prospects and some interesting arms. But their payroll is already at $170 million.
· The White Sox appear set with Melky Cabrera, Austin Jackson, and Adam Eaton at the moment, and probably wouldn’t want to take the defensive hit. If Braun would DH, that would allow them to get Avisail Garcia out of that spot, but unless they’re willing to include Tim Anderson, I don’t think they have the prospects to make it work.
· And that leaves the Red Sox, who have the money and have a hole in left field currently being taken up by Brock Holt, Chris Young, and Blake Swihart, and a hole at DH starting next year. Sounds like a potential match, which was probably Cafardo’s only point all along.