The Milwaukee Brewers finished at 73-89 and in fourth place in the NL Central Division this season. That left the club 30.5 games behind the first place Chicago Cubs, a team they finished nine games in front of just two years ago.
As we prepare for the opening of baseball’s Winter Meetings in just one week, the Brewers could well be one of the big players in any horse trading.
One of the main reasons: left fielder Ryan Braun is actively on the trade block. The 33-year old Braun may be the most proven and prolific bat available in a deal.
Reports are that Milwaukee general manager David Stearns was very close to a deal to send Braun to the Los Angeles Dodgers on a couple of occasions last season.
“I get asked about it regularly,” Stearns said recently per ESPN through the AP. “…that’s a big story this offseason, but I’m very happy that Ryan is a member of the Milwaukee Brewers…expect him to be a member of the Milwaukee Brewers going forward.”
The Dodgers are one of six teams to whom the 33-year old slugger cannot block a trade. The Miami Marlins, near where Braun played his college ball, are another. Also on the list are a number of teams near his home: the Angels, Padres, Dbacks, and Giants.
BRAUN’S CAREER TO DATE
Braun was the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year and 2011 National League Most Valuable Player. He is also a 6x NL All-Star and a 5x Silver Slugger Award winner.
Testing positive for a banned substance following that MVP season, Braun publicly challenged the testing process during an infamous February 2012 press conference. He has since recanted and admitted that he did indeed take PEDsto deal with injuries towards the end of that season.
As a result of his admission, Braun received a 65-game suspension from Major League Baseball, which he served in the second half of the 2013 season.
Braun’s production numbers in 2014 and 2015 were nowhere near his previous levels. This fueled speculation that he used PEDs far more often during his career than just at the end of 2011 to help with injuries.
But this past season, Braun rebounded to hit for a .305/.365/.508 slash with 30 homers and 91 RBI. He is very aware that as the Winter Meetings approach, his name is again being bandied about.
“Not knowing 100 percent where [I’ll] be playing is hard. It definitely complicates things,” the outfielder said just last week per the AP report. “Obviously, things come up. It’s a part of the business…part of the profession. If something were to happen, we’d figure it out when we get there.”
WHAT MIGHT MILWAUKEE DO AT THE MEETINGS?
If someone does indeed bite on Braun, it will have to be a team with deep pockets. A team tha tis one or two pieces away from serious title contention over the next couple of seasons.
Braun has four guaranteed years left on his contract at a total of $76 million. That will take him through his age 36 season. There is a further $15 million team option season, with a $4 million buyout.
Milwaukee could also look to move first baseman Chris Carter, who bashed 41 home runs with 27 doubles, 91 RBI, and 84 runs scored this season. Carter turns 30 years old just 10 days after the Winter Meetings conclude. (NOTE: Carter was non-tendered after original publication of this piece, and will likely not return.)
33-year old starting pitcher Matt Garza and 33-year old reliever Carlos Torres could make attractive trade pieces as well. 2016 breakout starting pitcher Junior Guerra, who turns 32 years old in January, might even be dangled.
The Brewers have a farm system that is universally ranked among the top third in the game, especially strong on position players. Milwaukee would almost certainly be looking to add a premium pitching prospect or two in any deal.
When the game’s movers and shakers gather outside Washington, D.C. next week, expect Stearns’ phone to be blowing up on a regular basis, with his star slugger the main topic of conversations.