Two recent mentions in the Daily News suggest the Brewers could look to unload PED prince Ryan Braun. If that is the case, should the Mets make a play for him?
It should be noted up front that the Brewers have not said publicly that they are looking to trade Braun. But by all accounts he is the most hated person in Milwaukee since, well, uh… That’s the point — people in Milwaukee do not hate anyone, so the fact that he is apparently such a pariah makes trade speculation a valid exercise.
Obviously Ryan Braun comes with as much baggage as an A380. Given the history and evidence it is safe to assume that Braun has been juicing for his entire career. So if he is a product of steroids, why would anyone take a chance on him?
When Mark McGwire finally came clean about his PED use, he downplayed the role it had in his career, saying steroids cannot suddenly give you the ability to hit a baseball. That, he said, comes from God. McGwire was right, but steroids can help you hit a ball harder and farther, resulting in more hits and home runs. So steroids will turn a mediocre hitter into a good hitter, a good hitter into a great hitter, a great hitter into an elite hitter.
Ryan Braun has been an elite hitter thus far in his career — a .312 batting average, with about 35 homers and 110 RBIs per year. So evidently he has that God-given talent to hit a baseball. Without PEDs he is likely to still be a great hitter. His numbers would probably dip to around 25 home runs, 90-100 RBIs and a .290-.300 BA. That’s still All-Star caliber.
His salary is another problem. Ryan Braun is due $127 million through 2020 (including a $4 million buyout in 2021). That comes out to a little more $18 million per season, which actually isn’t bad considering guys like Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo are likely to exceed that figure in free agency over the next few months.
But that is a big risk to take on someone who has apparently built his career on steroids. It is especially a big risk to take for the Mets and their limited budget.
At some point the Mets will have to take a risk, and I think this would be one worth taking. As I said above, I think Braun will continue to produce at a great, if not elite, level. And $18 million would be a bargain if Braun somehow can get back to his lofty numbers.
But do the Mets have what it takes in terms of players to trade for Braun? The Brewers have a hole at first base and reportedly like Ike Davis for some reason, so let’s start with him.
The Mets really cannot offer Milwaukee a replacement outfielder, so perhaps Daniel Murphy will do. However, the Brewers do not appear to have a need for him. They have a youngster at second base named Scooter Gennett, who hit .324 in limited at bats as a rookie and seems ready to push Rickie Weeks and his $11 million salary out the door. The Brewers also have $16 million tied up in 35-year-old third baseman Aramis Ramirez, so they can’t put Murphy there. But for these purposes, let’s leave Murphy in the deal, since it is the only quality bat the Mets have to offer.
But that obviously is not enough to get this done. The Brewers, like every team, need young starting pitching. The Mets have a surplus here.
By all accounts Noah Syndergaard is untouchable, and if he’s as good as everyone says he is, he probably should be. The only way Syndergaard should be traded is for a sure thing, like a Giancarlo Stanton (who is not going anywhere).
The Mets would almost certainly part with Rafael Montero, but I suspect if the Brewers were to take a prospect, they would want better than Montero.
Zack Wheeler? That’s a tough one. Wheeler looked good in his half season with the Mets, but he did not set the world on fire. To bring back someone like Braun, it would be something to think about.
But maybe the Brewers would not want a prospect at all; perhaps they would want a proven pitcher, so that would be Dillon Gee or Jonathon Niese. I think the Mets would absolutely include Gee, but they would be hesitant to deal Niese. That would be a mistake.
As good as Niese has looked at times, I don’t think he will ever be an ace. He is a number two at best, probably a number three starter, and I do not think trading him would be a terrible sacrifice.
The Mets are going to have to deal some of their starting pitchers at some point unless they plan on going with an eight-man rotation. If they can get Ryan Braun, I say do it now.
Another advantage of a Davis/Murphy/Niese trade is that it would take an estimated $14 million off the books for the Mets, replaced by Braun who will make just $10 million in 2014 (his extension doesn’t kick in until 2016). So in the short term the Mets would get some salary relief.
But is that even enough to land Ryan Braun? Maybe not. The Mets might have to include a couple of more prospects, or maybe even Wheeler instead of Niese. It all depends on how badly the Brewers want to dump him. But if they do, Flushing would be a great landing spot for him. New York fans are quite forgiving, and if Ryan Braun can play well, no one will care about his checkered past.