Major League Baseball is just a month into its season and trade rumors are already swirling around teams. Right now, the major rumor going around is that the Milwaukee Brewers are thinking about trading star slugger Ryan Braun.
Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the possibility of the Brewers dealing Braun is “becoming more realistic” as the team continues to struggles. Milwaukee has lost 9-of-13 and is 11-17 on the season. The Brewers have been outscored by 43 runs so far this year, the third most in the league.
Milwaukee is currently in rebuild mode, and had a very busy offseason, slashing payroll and building for the future. Milwaukee brought in just one free agent (Chris Carter) and made nine trades during the offseason. While most of the players the Brewers received were younger players — including a few top prospects — they did also receive starting pitcher Chase Anderson, veteran infielder Chris Hill, and starting shortstop Jonathan Villar.
Braun is off to a monster start in 2016. The 32-year-old is in the top six in the National League batting average, RBI, and OPS. He is hitting .368 (35-for-95), has 10 extra base hits (five homers), drove in 22 runs, and is two-for-three in the stolen base category.
Braun has a hit in five-straight games, going 10-for-21 (.457) during that span. He is doing a whale of a job with runners on-base, batting .447 in those situations and .542 with runners in scoring position.
Braun is making over $13.398 million this season and will have four-years, and $72-million left on his deal after 2016. He also has a team option in 2021 that is worth an additional $15 with a $4 million buyout. Braun and Hill are number one and two on the team in salaries, accounting for more than 25 percent of the Brewers’ $99 million total.
If and when Milwaukee does decide to trade Braun, there should be a huge market. However, Braun does have the right to veto any trade except to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants, Los Angeles Angels, and Miami Marlins.
Rosenthal believes that Braun would fit nicely alongside Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun in the Angels’ outfield. Los Angeles (13-15) is having trouble scoring runs so far this year, ranking 23rd in the majors in runs scored with 105. The Angels are also 25th in slugging percentage at .373.
Ortega has gotten a hit in four-straight games, and is batting .294 (15-for-51) with four runs batted in. He also has scored eight times and stolen two bases, as well as been solid defensively. Nava, who can also play first base, hasn’t played since mid-April and is hitting .286 (4-for-14) with one RBI in eight games.
The problem for the Angels acquiring Braun is they may not have enough prospects to pry him away from the Brewers — Los Angeles’ farm system is ranked last among all MLB teams, per ESPN. Braun’s hefty contract and his past suspension for PEDs could also sway the Angels from acquiring him.
Miami has won 10-of-11 and is 15-12 on the season. Christian Yelich, one of the team’s best young players, is hitting .330 with three homers and 14 runs batted.
The Dodgers (14-14) have lost seven-of-nine and rank 14th in runs scored with 121. They are only 26th in slugging percentage and have scored just 27 runs in their last nine contests, tallying three or less runs in all but two of those games. Los Angeles does have several injuries as well, including starting left fielder Andre Either, who is not expected back until the end of June, and veteran reserve outfielder Scott Van Slyke, who is on the 15-day DL.
The Dodgers have the second-best farm system this year with seven prospects ranked in the top-100. LHP Julio Urias, OF Alex Verdugo, and RHP Jose De Leon, RHP Grant Holmes, OF Yusnier Diaz, and 1B/CF Cody Bellinger are among the team’s top prospects.
San Francisco (15-15) is one of the top offensive teams and are spending over $166 million in salaries this year. Starting left fielder Angel Pagan, who is off to a solid start to the season, is making $10.25 million this year.
The Diamondbacks and Padres are the least likely of the above teams to acquire Braun. The D-Backs are rebuilding and are not interested in spending money as their 25-man roster currently costs $56.2 million.
The Boston Red Sox, Chicago White Sox, Baltimore Orioles, and Washington Nationals would also likely be interested in acquiring Braun, according to Dave Cameron of Fangraphs.
Boston (17-11) has won eight-of-10 and currently has a slight lead over the Baltimore Orioles (16-11) for first place in the American League East. Utility man Brock Holt is currently manning left field for the Red Sox and he is doing a decent job, batting .276 with two home runs, along with 16 runs batted in. It is expected, however, that the Red Sox will eventually go out and get a regular left fielder and allow Holt to move back into his normal utility role. Holt can play all five infield positions.
Cameron added Boston would also be a good trading partner, if the Brewers included catcher Jonathan Lucroy in the deal with Braun.
Lucroy told the the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel this winter that since the Brewers planned on rebuilding this year, he wanted to be traded.
“Yeah, absolutely. I want to win. It’s not guaranteed that I’m going to win if I am traded. But I’m going to be a 30-year-old catcher (in June). I can’t put numbers on how much longer I’m going to play, but as players we want to win. I don’t care about the money; I just want to win. That’s the bottom line.”
Lucroy, one of the better offensive catchers in the league, currently has a slash line of .308/.376/.430. He also has one home run and 10 runs batted in.
[Photo by Morry Gash/Associated Press]