Jim Bowden of ESPN.com suggested today that the Seattle Mariners were one of several possible landing spots for Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. The former general manager of the Cincinnati Reds and Washington Nationals believes there’s a 70-percent chance that Milwaukee moves their star outfielder prior to the start of next season.
With the Mariners in need of another everyday position player and corner outfield help, the notion of Braun coming to the Emerald City is intriguing. Should the club pursue the six-time all-star?
Based on the back of Braun’s baseball card, the answer is yes.
Last season, the 2007 National League Rookie of the Year belted 30 home runs and slashed .305/.365/.538 for the Brew Crew — totals very similar to his career averages. On top of that, his 4.4 wins above replacement (WAR) were third best among major league left fielders in 2016. By comparison, Seattle’s left fielders had 15 home runs, a .276/.348/.416 slash, and delivered a value of 1.4 WAR.
Undoubtedly, Braun would give the Mariners a boost from the right side of the plate. His .903 on-base plus slugging (OPS) was tenth best among right-handed hitters qualified for the batting title in 2016; better than notable names such as Edwin Encarnacion, Mookie Betts, and Yoenis Cespedes.
In the field, Braun was slightly above average with six defensive runs saved. The veteran does have below average range, but he’d still represent a significant improvement over Seattle’s left field defense, which ranked number-27 in the majors last season.
At this point, I’m sure many Seattle fans are ready to welcome the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player with open arms. But, four central issues have to be considered by any potential buyer — Braun’s compensation, age, injury history, and willingness to be traded.
Without even considering what the Mariners would have to surrender to acquire the five-time Silver Slugger Award winner, the club may view his salary as too exorbitant — any potential buyer is on the hook for at least $80 million. Braun is owed $76 million through the 2020 season with a $15 million option/$4 million buyout in place for 2021. If he were younger and not entering his age-33 season in 2017, his salary would be much more palatable.
As with any professional athlete on the wrong side of 30, the “unknown unknown” is how they’ll age during the latter years of their career. What we do know is that Braun hasn’t played in more than 140 games since the 2012 season. In 2013, he played a suspension-shortened season due to his involvement in the Biogenesis scandal. Since then, he’s suffered an assortment of back, neck, and thumb injuries, which have affected his availability.
A potential roadblock to any Braun deal is his veteran status. As a player with 10 years in the big leagues and at least five with his current club, the former first round draft pick can disapprove any deal. It’s possible he wouldn’t want to spend the twilight years of his career in the Pacific Northwest. There’s also a chance that he’d use his veto power as leverage. Any potential buyer may have to guarantee his 2021 option year in order to gain his approval.
In the end, Braun’s salary, age, and injury history lead me to believe that he’s not a good fit for the Mariners.
Seattle can ill-afford to squander their limited trade equity in order to make a “win now” move that would severely impact their future sustainability. Adding the Brewers’ slugger would deliver an initial salvo of productivity in 2017, but it would inevitably leave Seattle with two expensive full-time designated hitter candidates by 2020 — 37-year-old Robinson Cano and 36-year-old Ryan Braun at a combined price of $41 million.
Yes, Braun is still a great right-handed bat. But, adding a high-priced, thirty-something player with an injury history doesn’t sound like a Jerry Dipoto move, does it?
I don’t believe so.