Ah, everyone’s favorite monthly trade rumor: Ryan Braun to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Al Melchior of FanRag Sports tosses wood on the fire this time, asking if Braun is still a viable avenue for the Dodgers.
Los Angeles and Milwaukee came close to a trade that would’ve exchanged Braun for a packaged headlined by Yasiel Puig in August, but time worked against the parties. Braun was even advised to wait in the clubhouse for the official agreement while his teammates gave their farewells. But there’s yet to be any traction on an offseason trade, and the Dodgers have been focused on keeping their own and upgrading second base.
Melchior argues Braun would be an even bigger asset than Brian Dozier, who has been at the forefront of all Dodgers trade rumors in December. He points out Braun finished 11th in the MLB with a .417 wOBA versus left-handers, his fifth year of the past six he’s exceeded the .400 mark. Dozier finished last season at .397, but Melchior attributes that to Dozier’s sudden power surge, as his career wOBA against left-handers sits at .365, significantly lower than Braun’s.
With that said, Melchior understands why the Dodgers would be hesitant to re-explore a deal with Milwaukee. Dozier is just a two-year commitment, while Braun’s contract complicates any trade.
All other things being equal, the Dodgers would be well-served to step up their pursuit of Braun, but all other things aren’t equal. Braun just turned in his best season since 2012, but he is at a stage in his career when decline can begin at any time. He would cost the Dodgers $19 million in salary in 2017, but even if he were to regress from being a 3.2-win player (using fWAR) to the 2.9-win level he established in 2015, he should make that investment pay off. After that, though, Braun will still be owed $57 million over his age 34-to-36 seasons. With each passing year, it would become less likely that Braun would give the Dodgers a positive return.
That isn’t necessarily the case financially, however. BrewCrewBall.com explained the reality of the Braun situation last May.
$14 million is deferred over his contract, with the cash due starting in 2022, the year following Braun’s mutual option. The deferrals are spread across a decade, equating to $1.8 million per year. BrewCrewBall suggested Milwaukee would be willing to cover the deferrals, given their tendency to pay salary to facilitate trades during their rebuild. If the Brewers do just that, Braun’s contract becomes a four-year deal for $62 million, with a fifth year option almost guaranteed to be declined.
At that point, Braun is paid $15.5 million per year, a reasonable number for a player of his caliber, and a number he’d probably exceed on the free agent market. However, as Melchior said, Braun isn’t a positive fielder and is trending downward. He acknowledges it could prevent Braun from becoming a three-win player, whereas Dozier could “significantly regress” and still be worth four wins.
Melchior brings up the notion of Mark Trumbo or Jose Bautista manning the outfield at Chavez Ravine, citing both as cheaper alternatives to Braun (though if Milwaukee covered the deferrals, that likely isn’t the case). But they also have defensive deficiencies and are casualties of a limited market because of a refusal to lower their prices. Either way, Melchior opines adding any of the three would vastly benefit the 2017 and 2018 Dodgers.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) December 15, 2016
Also noted is because of Dozier’s undervalued contract, adding him and Braun is possible. The Dodgers just spent almost $200 million to retain three of their own free agents, however, so now might not be the best time. The organization is shedding multiple dead weight deals in the coming years but it will have to consider payroll constraints, upcoming extensions and handicapping its ability to play the free agent market.
“I think it would be inappropriate for me to get into any detail about any of that stuff,’’ Braun said to USA TODAY Sports on a trade to the Dodgers. “Obviously, I live in Los Angeles in the offseason. I grew up a Dodger fan. When those conversations started, I think it was an interesting position for me to be in. But I love Milwaukee. I’m happy being a Brewer. And if those conversations were to continue, we’ll see where they lead.’’
Whether it’s Dozier, Braun or someone else, the Dodgers don’t seem content just yet.