New York Yankees Trade Watch: Ryan Braun

By Craig Williams

This is going to toe the line between “unlikely” and “utter fantasy” but I don’t plan on getting TOO crazy so stay with me on this.  As we know the New York Yankees are still in the market for another bat. Even if they throw some slop together for the DH spot in 2012, there are still going to be some questions to answer on the offensive side of things in 2013.  The New York Yankees will need to decide if they want to re-sign Nick Swisher and they’ll need to determine when they plan on moving Alex Rodriguez to DH full-time. The New York Yankees emptied any legit offensive talent in the upper levels of their farm system when they traded Jesus Montero so they will likely need to address this need from outside the organization via trade or free agency.  Enter Ryan Braun.

Why Ryan Braun?

This is one of those questions worthy of that blank stare when your teacher/professor/manager/etc. asks you a painfully obvious question.  Anyway, Braun is one of the truly elite hitters in the game and an improving player overall.  A career .312/.371/.563 hitter with a .402 wOBA, Braun could step into the Yankees lineup and immediately surpass Robinson Cano as the best hitter on the team.  Since his rookie year in 2007, Braun has not only posted three .400+ wOBA seasons, but he has increased his BB% and decreased his K% each season.  In other words, we still may not have seen the best Braun has to offer.  His glove work isn’t quite as impressive, but his UZR numbers suggest that he has improved as he has gained more experience in the outfield.  I have no doubts that Braun could manage the real estate in front of the short porch at Yankee Stadium without a problem.

Thinking about Braun in Yankee pinstripes definitely gets your juices flowing, but let’s reign it in a bit and get back to the real world.  Braun is signed through 2020.  Not a typo – 2020. If the Yankees were serious about acquiring Braun they would pretty much have to empty out the top shelf of their system.  Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Mason Williams, Gary Sanchez…most, if not each, of those players – plus more perhaps – would have to head over to Milwaukee if Braun is to ever be Bronx bound.  Guess what though?  I’d be perfectly fine with this and after the initial shock, most Yankees fans would warm up to it as well. Braun and Cano would form one of the most electric duos in the middle of the order along with the customary supporting talent. You know what else?  The Yankees would build their system back up.  It would take time obviously and it would be more challenging under the new CBA, but there would be enough firepower in the lineup and in the rotation to carry the team to World Series contention for the next several years.  In this hypothetical situation, Braun is clearly the type of elite bat that a team should empty the farm for.

Why MIGHT the Milwaukee Brewers Trade Ryan Braun

Certainly everything I wrote above makes it seem impossible that the Brew Crew would move Ryan Braun, but as the saying goes, “everyone has a price”.  The only reason the Brewers would entertain dealing Braun though – at any price – is if they needed to embark on a complete rebuilding project.  Let that sink in for a minute…….Where are the Brewers headed these days?  With the departure of Prince Fielder and Braun’s 50 game suspension*, 2012 is likely a lost season.  After this season 40% of the starting rotation (Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum) are likely headed for free agency.  They’ll just fill holes from within, right?  Well, the Brewers cleaned out their system to bring Greinke and Marcum aboard in trades and are currently building it back up.  Heading into 2011, Baseball America tagged the Brewer’s organization with a No. 30 ranking.  Also known as dead last.  It might have improved a bit since then, but it could still use plenty of help.  Combine those two points with the fact that it would take a minor miracle for the Brewers to beat out the competition for a playoff berth, and it is safe to call their World Series window slammed shut.

The Brewers would probably say that they still have Rickie Weeks and Yovanni Gallardo adding to the foundation (maybe they’d even throw Corey Hart’s name into the mix) and that they don’t need to rebuild.  I would call their bluff.  They would be embarking on a long road of mediocrity before another serious opportunity presented itself. Perhaps they would prefer that road over a complete overhaul, but mediocrity is like quicksand.  Once you get stuck it’s hard to get out and the harder you try the deeper you sink.  Of course the fans and front office people in Milwaukee probably don’t (want to) agree with me, but everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

Final Thoughts

The New York Yankees are no stranger to big names and bold moves.  If there is a chance to add a perennial All-Star to the mix, they have no problem parting with top prospects to do so.  There are growing concerns regarding the potency of the Yankees lineup over the next few seasons and Ryan Braun would go a long way to alleviating those concerns.  By now you might be thinking to yourself “this guy needs to come back to reality” and perhaps you’re correct.  I wouldn’t put this type of mega-move past the Yankees though.  The organization has been..”tamer”..since George Steinbrenner relinquished full control, but their commitment to championships has not wavered.

*I am not concerned with Ryan Braun being a “tainted” player nor am I suggesting that the Milwaukee Brewers should be more willing to trade him due to this recent “steroid” issue.

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