The wonders of the trade rumor mill in the offseason are as plentiful as those post-Christmas credit card bills. With burdensome contracts comes the magnification of such rumors as potential dumping grounds are evaluated. One that creeps up with astonishing regularity is Ryan Braun.
Braun has a unique contract in that it de-escalates instead of escalating. Each season an incremental decrease takes place as the $20 Million for 2017 can drop – providing options are enforced – to a paltry $15 Million by 2021 when the right-hand slugger will be 37-years-old.
Braun has said all the right things regarding his potential shipment elsewhere as noted in the latest rumor. Braun’s history is also well document about his dabbling in substances that baseball frowns upon. That is the bad Braun, but the good Braun is quite potent with the stick.
Braun is a former Rookie of the Year, a former Most Valuable Player, six-time All-Star and has ownership of a nice collection of several Silver Slugger Awards. Braun has led the National League in home runs once and can generally be counted upon to power 30 or so out of the lot. Braun is also a .304 career hitter, has swiped as many as 33 bases and will keep his whiffs around the 100 mark.
You delve into Braun’s numbers and what impresses this observer is the home and road splits. Almost a mirror image of each other. I do have a statistical preference for RISP and especially two out RISP and Braun does just fine. Braun even has a career .294 against righties – not bad. In the small Fenway Park sample, Braun has played in eight games with three home runs and five RBI while hitting .294.
Is he worth a kick the tires?
The hitting is there and the salary would be reasonable considering what Edwin Encarnacion is asking. Braun has also played a bit of third base – 112 games – all in his rookie season and the defensive metrics do not cause visions of Brooks Robinson to surface. Braun’s primary residence is the outfield and specifically left field.
The last time I checked the Red Sox had Andrew Benintendi scheduled for left and Benintendi is young, cheap and talented. For depth is Brock Holt, Blake Swihart and Chris Young. Left appears to be a no-go unless the logjam is solved. A potential exists that the Red Sox could send Jackie Bradley elsewhere and allow Benintendi to shift over to center.
Braun can also manage right field, but I will go out on a forecast limb and say that Mookie Betts may be a keeper in right. That would leave the wonderful gap at designated hitter as a possibility. Braun has seen some very limited duty as a DH hitting a mere .245 in only 53 at-bats.
The real crux of the Braun possibility is trading requirements. The last time I checked, I don’t believe the Brewers – who Braun toils away for – were in any generous mode of accepting a low-end prospect or an afterthought on the 25-man roster. Braun will cost more than just contract absorption.
What will happen?
I like Braun the hitter, but I don’t like Braun the cost. I am – quite naturally – making an assumption that Milwaukee would require a few top of the line prospects and possibly a ready-made player such as Holt to toss out a name. Why do it when money that is similar to the Braun contract will get you a player to be your DH? I would reluctantly pass on Braun unless the potential price in players drops or significant trades are made.
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