As the Milwaukee Brewers get ready to play their first exhibition game of Spring Training down in Arizona today, the hot topic around camp is whether the team will trade outfielder Ryan Braun. Braun currently has a no-trade clause in his contract--which runs through 2021--which would allow the team to send him to a limited number of franchises with Braun's okay. But in May, he becomes a 10-5 player--meaning he has played ten major league seasons, the last five with the same team--and can therefore veto any trade--even if it was to a team that he had earlier approved in his no-trade clause.
That is leading to speculation that the Crew will try to ship Braun to his hometown LA Dodgers or Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim before that May date. The move would free up S20-million in salaries and likely get the Brewers more prospects to build for the future. But it would also send a message to the fans that management has no belief that the team will compete for anything this year--or for a couple more years.
The Brewers don't always make the best decisions when it comes to which middle-aged stars to keep--and which to let go. After the 1992 season, both Robin Yount and Paul Molitor were free agents. Bud Selig decided to keep Yount--because it was clear he was going to reach 3,000 career hits, and that would be a great draw at the gate for a team that was on the way down. So Molitor was actually offered a pay cut and instead signed with the Toronto Blue Jays.
Yount did in fact get to 3,000 hits--getting the historic mark at County Stadium in front of a packed house. But he didn't hit .300 and retired the next year. All Paul Molitor did was hit well over .300 his first two seasons in Toronto and win the World Series MVP award in 1993. Oh, and he too reached 3,000 hits--with his hometown Minnesota Twins a few seasons later.
Let's not forget that there are two Ryan Brauns to consider as well. There is the pre-PED bust Ryan Braun that was an unstoppable offensive force--and the post-PED suspension Ryan Braun that has seen all of his offensive numbers drop off (especially power numbers) and who has struggled to stay healthy. By all accounts, Braun is Brewers' owner Mark Attanasio's favorite player (since they are both LA guys)--and that could mean that the ultimate decision from the front office may be based more on emotion than advanced analytics. Let's just hope the Brewers don't let sentimentality overrule the possibility of building a better team for the future.