In this world, nothing can be said to be certain except death, taxes, and the never-ending Ryan Braun to the Dodgers trade rumors. He has almost been a Dodger on multiple occasions and was especially close to being traded to LA at the 2016 non-waiver deadline yet still somehow plays for Milwaukee.
For the first time in a long time, the Milwaukee Brewers are a very good looking team. This rebuilt Milwaukee club needs Braun’s bat less now than any other time in his career. In case you haven’t noticed, the Brewers outfield is stacked thanks to the additions of Lorenzo Cain and Marlins’ fire sale product Christian Yelich.
Domingo Santana looks to be a candidate to hit 25 plus homers annually, in addition to his solid on-base skills. If the highly regarded Keon Broxton can work out some more walks, that would give Milwaukee four starting-caliber outfielders. And that’s without mentioning Hernan Perez, who is essentially their version of Kike Hernandez. Perez is capable of playing almost every infield and outfield position.
At $20,000,000 in 2018, Braun will be getting paid much more than all of the other Brewer’s outfielders. Braun has attempted to work out at first base to help ease their crowded outfield, but even the capable Jesus Aguilar impressed as backup first baseman last year.
Milwaukee has a chance to put out their best squad in several years. With the Cubs recently stealing Yu Darvish, it would in their best interest for the Brew Crew to upgrade their rotation. Moving Braun’s contract off the books would give Milwaukee short and long-term flexibility to add one of the remaining quality unsigned starters such as Jake Arietta, Alex Cobb, or Lance Lynn.
And, to for the second time in six months, the Ryan Braun/Dodger trade rumors are again beginning to surface here and there. The idea this time being that LA would send the unwanted Matt Kemp and his contract to Milwaukee in exchange for Braun. Why would LA do this? Ryan Braun, if healthy, is better than Matt Kemp in just about every facet of the game currently. From hitting, on-base skills, slugging, running, defense, to hitting lefties, Braun is clearly the better player.
While he worked through injuries last year, Braun still put up solid numbers. A closer look reveals even more enticing data. In his career, Braun has hit .319/.389/.593 in Dodger Stadium. He is hitting over .330, with an OPS north of 1.000 against left-handed pitching, which would serve especially well in LA’s lefty-heavy outfield. Furthermore, Braun has a lifetime OPS over 1.000 against the Cubs and has hit .372/.422/.638 in his postseason career.
Obviously, Braun is towards the end of his career, but those numbers can do nothing but encourage Dodgers fans having trouble envisioning him in Dodger Blue. He wouldn’t be needed for more than 130 games or so and was also elite offensively as recently as 2016 (while PED free).
When it comes to luxury tax purposes, Braun doesn’t exactly help the Dodgers out. Remember in regards to the luxury tax, the average sum of the player’s entire contract is accounted for, not the remaining years. So a Kemp for Braun swap would very slightly increase LA’s overall payroll next year, in regards to the competitive balance (luxury) tax. Milwaukee would be stuck with Kemp for
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two years, as opposed to at least three for Braun, giving them more flexibility. They could attempt to trade Kemp to the AL or just outright DFA him.
LA can still send Yasmani Grandal who would pair nicely with Milwaukee’s Manny Pina. They could also send Hyun-Jin Ryu to help fill out their rotation in an effort to shed a little more salary as opposed to giving up prospects. Milwaukee can gain the flexibility to fill other needs, and LA can receive that extra righty power bat they seemingly always need. Braun could also spell Bellinger at first against a lefty on occasion, now that he’s started working there.
There’d be a hint of irony, and an avalanche of Dodger fan protest if LA traded Kemp for Braun. Especially so after the infamous 2011 MVP fiasco, but that’s all moot. Superteams like Boston and the Yankees have recently been adding monster power to their lineups. For as good as the Dodgers were last year, they lost the World Series because Houston outhit them.
We could very well be having this conversation again at the deadline or perhaps next offseason even. However, adding Braun’s lefty-mashing bat into this lineup alongside right-handed mashers Cody Bellinger and Corey Seager could go a long way come this postseason. Perhaps Friedman can work out one of his classic three-team deal, finding an AL taker for Kemp in a Braun swap. The possibilities are endless, LA just needs to find a way to make the dollars work. Currently, that’s far from a certainty.