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A Ryan Braun Trade Possibility? Chatting with 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball

When Ryan Braun was suspended by MLB, it was natural that the event would unleash speculation on whether Braun had a long-term future in Milwaukee or whether the Brewers franchise would look to move him.  In addition, the question arose on if there’d even be any takers on the market should Braun be made available.  Well, the other day I heard from James and Mike of the great blog 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball, (Twitter: @2GuysMets) and they are interested in Ryan Braun.  Specifically: for the Mets in 2014.

The following are my responses to their intriguing questions about a potential Braun trade, along with my inquiries about how that possibility looks on the Mets’ side.  You should also check out their initial discussion on trading for an admitted drug cheat from Monday. 

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Jimmy:

Hey, Nick. Thanks for taking the time out. Well, I'm sitting here in the state of New York once again contemplating the sorry state of the New York Mets. More than anything, the Mets need a real bat in the middle of the order. Preferably a corner outfielder. And in spacious Citi Field, a good glove with decent speed is always a plus. Happily, the cash-strapped Mets have more than $50M coming off the books (Bay, Santana, Buck), so the club should be able to absorb salary. Want to guess who I've got in my sights?

Nick:

Khris Davis?

Jimmy:

I'd never get the spelling right. No, I was wondering . . . what's the mood over there on Ryan Braun?

Nick:

It ranges. Pretty much every Brewers fan is embarrassed or angered to some degree. This guy was the face of the franchise and is under contract until 2020. He was a hero to kids and adults alike. The California-reared ‘Hebrew Hammer’ supposedly liked Milwaukee and wanted to stay.  Maybe big-market teams can afford for a contract of that magnitude to go bust, but the Brewers cannot, by any means. I think people in Wisconsin and Brewers fans everywhere are somewhere in the five stages of grief. Most are past denial, but probably many are mixed up in anger, bargaining or depression. We will all eventually accept it, reluctantly.

This is a big blow for a franchise that was finally starting to see some results on the field after a quarter-century of futility. Fans and non-fans have reacted in various ways, from putting taped letters on their Braun jerseys so they read ‘Fraud’ instead of ‘Braun’, to making jokes, to defending or vilifying Braun.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s editorial board went as far as to say the organization should put its foot down and get rid of him somehow.

Jimmy:

Yes, the PED issue will always incite a degree of hysteria. Do you think there's a chance things get smoothed over for Braun in Milwaukee? Or has that ship sailed?

Nick:

I think there’s a chance. From what we’ve heard from the organization, they expect Braun to make amends and be part of the team for years to come. Milwaukee is on the hook financially.  So as much as many would like to see that ship sink in Lake Michigan, it has not yet sailed. If Braun comes back and really, truly works hard to make things right, perhaps Milwaukee will forgive him. But it won’t forget.

Jimmy:

It's hard to assess his value on the marketplace. This is a recent National League MVP still in his prime. But he comes with a huge contract and considerable baggage. It's unknown at what level he'll play without the aid of PEDs. Do you foresee an active market?

Nick:

Certainly the Brewers have a public-relations problem on their hands, but as you said he’s still in his prime. Will he be the same player he was in 2012, for example, when he had MVP-type numbers? Who knows? But they aren’t going to give him away. Milwaukee fans, as well as the front office, have often remarked about how Milwaukee was lucky to get Braun, because players like him are rare. Without Braun, the Brewers’ future is very muddy. So unless they were blown away and had another team take the contract nearly completely, I don’t see him traded.

Jimmy:

What are the Brewers needs? Veterans, minor leaguers? Glancing at the Mets, do any players appeal to you? Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler are off the table. David Wright, certainly. What would it take to pique your interest?

Nick:

It depends on what you mean by veterans. Washed-up has-beens?  Definitely not. I’m not sure what the Mets would have to offer in terms of veterans, anyway. No, the Brewers need pieces for the future, primarily a 3B, with the aging Aramis Ramirez there now. Second baseman Rickie Weeks (poor performance, injuries) may be done in Brew City as well. First baseman Corey Hart (free agent) may not return and the Brewers have a gaping hole at first. The infield is a bit of a mess long-term besides Jean Segura at short. So I would look at those positions mostly. I know the Brewers have been linked to Ike Davis, but that was only speculation on one writer’s part, I think.

Of course, the Brewers have a lot of question marks with their starting rotation as well. A guy like Jeremy Hefner may interest the Brewers. If Harvey and Wheeler are off the table, then GM Doug Melvin would likely want whatever other good pitchers the Mets have in their minor league system. I believe Braun could be had, but he won’t come cheap because when you take Braun away from Milwaukee, they start looking a lot like the Houston Astros of 2012.

I guess for me, this has me wondering, so let me ask you some questions:

Do you view Braun as having the potential to turn the Mets around in a major way, quickly?

Jimmy:

The Mets have a number of holes to fill, it's true, but their greatest need right now is a potent middle-of-the-order bat. Braun fills that bill, and he plays the right position, too. The Mets lost a lot of low-scoring games — hell, Matt Harvey had a sensational year, started 26 games with an ERA of 2.27, and ended up with a record of 9-5. With any kind of support, he could have gone 16-3. There appears to more pitching in the pipeline, but the organization lacks bats. Hitting is going to have to come from outside. Ryan Braun, if he performed near his career levels, would be a huge step in the right direction for this franchise. Moreover, it would signal a sea change for ownership: they'd be trying to win. And the fans would notice.

Nick:

What would the Mets be willing to give up for Braun?  Would it be smart for them to send out prospects in that kind of deal?

Jimmy:

Obviously, this is purely speculative on my part. But I could see a package of 1B Ike Davis (a Jekyll & Hyde-type player, with interesting upside) and our top hitting prospect, 2B/3B Wilmer Flores, who just turned 22, but does not fill a need for the Mets. Even if the Mets were to absorb Braun's entire contract, they could still probably throw in an interesting pitching prospect, but not a top tier guy like Syndergaard or Montero. Would Jacob DeGrom float your boat? Warning, when you look at DeGrom's numbers, or any other pitcher at AAA, you have to factor in that he's working in a hitter's park in a hitter's league, the PCL. He's not unlike Hefner, who just had Tommy John surgery, or we'd send him along happily.

Nick:

What’s your take on Braun and how have Mets fans or New Yorkers reacted to his lying/cheating ways?

Jimmy:

As my co-blogger, Mike, pointed out the other day, this is New York. We embraced Latrell Sprewell — and all he ever did was attempt to CHOKE HIS COACH TO DEATH! Sprewell came to the Knicks, played hard, helped the team. So generally speaking, we forgave and forgot. Of course, that's the key. Braun could not come here, juiceless, and start hitting like Jason Bay. In the words of Don Corleone, "That, we could not forgive." Here's the thing: Braun was beloved in Milwaukee. Idolized. Then he lied to a lot of people who cared about him, folks who walked around wearing his jersey. He hurt them. Broke some fragile hearts. With a new team, new fans, nobody would be nearly as upset. The other comparison that comes to mind, besides Sprewell, would be Keith Hernandez, ex-coke fiend, shipped out of St. Louis on a fast plane. We never held it against Keith . . . because he played hard, and he played great, and we won.

Nick:

By the way, in case you weren't aware, Sprewell is from Milwaukee and years after he famously refused millions of dollars from the T-Wolves, had a yacht of his repossessed by federal marshals, or some such thing. A trophy he had at McKinley marina l think on the Milwaukee lakefront. Crazy shit.

Jimmy:

Can't say that I'm surprised, maybe he took financial advice from Lenny Dykstra. Thinking further about Sprewell's time in NYC, it's not so much about forgiveness as about compartmentalizing. He was just a player here, you know, a guy in shorts; it's not like anybody ever put him up on a pedestal. Which is part of the problem you folks are having with Braun, the iconic figure. You want all these apologies and mea culpas. We don't have to carry that luggage.

Nick:

This is the first I’ve heard about a writer exploring the possibility of a specific team acquiring Braun. Do you see any other teams as possible landing spots?

Jimmy:

He's an incredible talent. But Braun comes with a massive contract and considerable risk. It would take a team in exactly the right circumstances, a perfect storm. I look around and keep coming back to the New York Mets. All the ingredients are here. It's time for this New York franchise to roll the dice, we're a little desperate, we now have the financial flexibility, we have the talent to trade, and Braun looks like a good bet to me. I'd like to see it happen.

Obviously, it takes two to dance. Some GMs love to make a headline trade; others are far less inclined to make bold moves. I'd describe Met GM Sandy Alderson's style as risk-averse. Extremely patient. He's made the deals he's had to make, and usually from an advantageous position. Veterans for prospects. A deal for Braun would be a departure for Alderson, which puts it in the "less likely" category. What's your read on Doug Melvin?

Nick:

Doug Melvin leans the opposite way. The CC Sabathia deal of 2008 and the Zack Greinke deal prior to the 2011 season involved Melvin sending out many prospects. Both deals were successful, though. The Brewers hitched on to Sabathia's dominance to break a streak of no playoff appearances that had lasted 25 years. Zack Greinke helped them to the NLCS in 2011. Some of the traded prospects have emerged as major leaguers, but many have not. Melvin also sent Brett Lawrie to Toronto for Shaun Marcum, with whom Mets fans are familiar (probably in a bad way), prior to 2011. Trader Doug is game for something wild, I'd guess.

So Melvin's probably more of a gambler than Alderson. The Brewers, as a small-market club, may be in a more desperate environment such that when the window for winning is open, drastic, risky moves are required. After some of the chaos the Mets have been through, it appears to me that Alderson is taking a conservative approach in part to bring some restraint to the operation. But do Mets fans and players have the patience to wait five more years for real success? Maybe not. Doug Melvin is definitely not your typical GM, for good and bad. I'd say a deal would hinge more on Alderson being willing to play roulette with Melvin. Melvin will at least listen.

(Image: newsday.com)

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Thanks again to Jimmy and Mike from 2 Guys Talking Mets Baseball.  Stay tuned.

Nick Michalski

About Nick Michalski

Nick Michalski is the managing editor and a writer at TheBrewersBar.com; he has also written for WISports.com, IrishAmericanPost.com and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @MichalskiNick.

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