Oh how time changes things! Scantly two years removed from being booed by his own fans (some of whom were donning poorly-doctored “Fraud” jerseys and foolishly calling for his outright release), Ryan Braun has completed the transition from former MVP-turned-scapegoat to fully-redeemed MVP candidate. Through Milwaukee’s first 32 games this season, Braun leads the unabashedly rebuilding Brewers in hits (40), RBI (24), batting average (.367), and OBP (.430), while trailing only Chris Carter in home runs with seven. As Braunie seems to be back and better than ever, most fans have not only accepted him back into their heart, they’ve grown possessive.
With Braun healthy and well on his way to his seventh All-Star appearance, not to mention the Brewers’ desire to replenish the minor league system as they continue to build for the future, the slugger is sure to be drawing trade interest from teams. Evidently, our neighbors on Chicago’s north side could be a good fit. Yesterday, ESPN Senior Writer Jim Bowden
blindly speculated reported the All-Star outfielder could be a one of a few players who might make sense for the Cubs to acquire in a trade between now and the end of July.
“Possible Trade targets for Cubs between now and deadline could be dominated by left fielders with Kyle Schwarber injured and Jorge Soler not hitting. Options could include: Carlos Gonzalez, Jay Bruce, Nick Markakis, Ryan Braun and Josh Reddick.”
Back in February, we said Braun was virtually untradeable, largely due to the $96M he’s owed through the end of the 2020 season. However, if he can stay healthy and continues keep this otherworldly production coming, Braun could be worth the salary hit for some teams, and could net Milwaukee some pretty solid prospects in the process. As Brew Crew Ball pointed out, the Cubs—who are now reaping the inexpensive fruits of their own recent rebuild—have tons of money to spend, no shortage of valuable young talent, and a need for a left fielder.
Before you destroy your caps lock and work yourself into a tizzy with rants calling for David Stearns’ head and referring to Braun as a “TRADER,” try to recognize how unlikely this scenario is. While the deal makes sense in 2016, Schwarber and slumping outfielder Jorge Soler are still in Chicago’s long-term corner outfield plans, meaning the Cubs would either have to try to flip a virtually untradable 32-year-old outfielder still owed $76M between 2017 and 2020, or make him a platoon player. To allow this to happen, Braun would also need to waive his no-trade clause. Though Stearns has quickly shown he isn’t afraid to make unpopular decisions for the sake of long-term results, he’s unlikely to deal the team’s best player to a team fans perceive to be Milwaukee’s biggest rival. Similarly, the Cubs wouldn’t want to send anyone of value Milwaukee’s way to haunt them for the next decade. Plus the Brewers are still a small-market organization that needs to sway casual fans through the gate with dog-related promotions, Andy Grammer concerts, artisan doughnuts, and recognizable names.
With fan favorite Jonathan Lucroy angling to be traded, Braun is likely to remain a Brewer in 2016, that is unless Milwaukee is bowled over by an offer. And that offer isn’t likely to come from the Cubs.