The Yankees offense has struggled mightily throughout the early 2016 season. Could trading for Ryan Braun be the answer?
According to the latest from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the possibility of the Brewers trading Ryan Braun is becoming “more realistic.” Braun’s torrid start (he’s hitting .372/.443/.605 with 5 home runs and 21 RBI through his first 24 games as I write this) and the fact that Milwaukee is in the middle of an ongoing rebuild are listed by Rosenthal as reasons why the Brewers might be more and more likely to pull the trigger on a deal for the man affectionately know as the “Hebrew Hammer.”
At this point, Braun’s no-trade clause blocks deals to every team except for the Dodgers, Angels, Marlins, Rays and Nationals. Having the Yankees on his no-trade list, however, doesn’t mean he can never be traded to the Bombers. It just means he can’t be traded there without his expressed written consent. So, if the Yankees wanted to boost their offense and put together the right deal, and Braun gave his OK (presumably with some added incentives), he’d be Bronx-bound in no time at all.
So, with all that being said, should the Yankees go after the slugger?
Let’s examine the facts and see if Braun checks enough boxes to make us desire his services in Pinstripes:
I’m going to go ahead and start with the obvious thing that makes us, as fans, even consider this deal. The dude can hit. I talked about his resurgent numbers on the current season so far, but there’s much more where that came from. Not too long ago, Braun was considered by many to be one of the best right-handed hitting power hitters in baseball. From 2007 until 2012, Braun absolutely terrorized opposing pitchers. In 883 games during that time, he hit .313/.374/.568 and averaged 34 homers and 107 RBI with an OPS+ of 147. Those numbers were actually brought down a bit by his rookie season, when he didn’t debut until May 25 and still hit 34 homers and drove in 97 runs in 113 games. Did I mention the stolen bases? In those six seasons, Braun averaged 21 per year, and even topped the 30/30 mark twice. He won the Rookie of the Year in 2007, and the MVP in 2011. Yowza.
Unfortunately, the train came off the rails in 2013. The mess actually started following the 2011 season, when Braun was suspended for a positive test from the PED’s that postseason. Fortunately for Ryan, the suspension was lifted when an independent arbiter ruled that his sample had been mishandled. After finishing second in the MVP race in 2012, Braun started the 2013 season slowly. He tried to play through an injured hand, but eventually had to hit the disabled list. Because of the hand issues, he was limited to just 9 home runs in 61 games. In July of 2013, MLB finally got it’s man, and Braun was suspended for the rest of the season after failing yet another PED test.
When he came back for the 2014 season, Braun battled more injuries, and some pretty bad PR. He finished the season with only 19 home runs in 135 games. He rebounded a bit last year, hitting .285/.356/.498 with 25 home runs in 140 games. While those numbers put him short of his former MVP status, I’d absolutely still take those on this team. At 32 years old, Braun is not too old to rebound further, and he might just be doing that if his April numbers are any indication.
I can’t dispute that the talent is there, but there are several reasons not to make a deal for him too.
For starters, he’s only 32 now, but he’s under contract for five more years after this one, and is guaranteed $80 Million more over that time (potentially $11 Million more if his last option year is picked up). While that’s not unreasonable for a slugger of Braun’s pedigree, the thought of giving all that money to another guy on the wrong side of 30 makes me cringe. All we need is another Ellsbury-type contract.
Secondly, the Brewers are probably going to want quite the haul for Braun. We might be able to get them to take Gardner off our hands (I’m not going to even bother trying to throw Ellsbury into any realistic rumors), but I imagine they’re going to want a whole lot of prospects back in any potential deal. This probably means some kind of combination of Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo, Gary Sanchez, James Kaprielian, Luis Severino, Greg Bird, etc. etc. Do we want to take our chances that Braun will continue his resurgence beyond this season (at this point, I don’t think anything is saving the 2016 season, certainly not just Braun), or gamble on some of these highly touted kids? Personally, if someone’s gonna stink, I’d rather it be one of the kids. At least their cost isn’t prohibitive.
Finally, and I say this without ever having met the man, but Braun seems like a bit of a jerk to me. When he was first suspended, and subsequently exonerated because of the way the sample was handled, Braun seemingly went out of his way to drag the tester’s name through the mud. When he was finally suspended, his eventual apology was super lame. He never apologized for using banned substances, but rather for his actions, which he basically said were justified at the time because he was in such denial over his accidental PED usage. While trying to save himself, he basically tried to ruin another man’s career and life, and then just tried to tell us he only did that out of misplaced anger. Thanks, Ryan. I don’t even care that he used PEDs. I mean, let’s be realistic here. But the way he carried himself throughout the whole endeavor left a sour taste in my mouth.
At the end of the day, I don’t think this is a good trade for the Yankees to make at this time. First of all, they need a lot more help if they have any chance of turning things around. They need a third baseman, an outfielder with power, and maybe a starter or two to boot. Secondly, they’d own Braun’s contract into his mid-30s, which is never a good idea. Thirdly, getting him would cost us too many of our prospects, who have a real chance of helping us in the future. Braun’s bat would be nice to have in a vacuum, but I say no thank you.