Milwaukee Brewers: Does Braun-Puig Trade Make Sense?

Milwaukee and Los Angeles were a mere 20 minutes away from a Braun for Puig deal at the trade deadline and it is rumored that it will likely still happen, but does the swap really make sense from the Brewers’ perspective?

Negotiations between the Brewers and Dodgers went right down to the wire before the August 31st deadline this season. MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy reported that the sides “simply ran out of time” to get a deal done. Talks between the two teams are sure to restart this winter.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today even calls an offseason deal sending Ryan Braun to the Dodgers “likely”.

From Los Angeles’ perspective, acquiring Ryan Braun makes a lot of sense. The Dodgers are one of six teams not on Braun’s no-trade clause. The 2011 NL MVP would fit in nicely in a corner outfield spot there, giving a boost to a lineup that finished 19th in OPS and 14th in runs scored last season. Braun is consistently one of the best hitters in the big leagues, demonstrated by his .305/.365/.538 slash line and 30 home runs in 2016.

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Braun even sounded intrigued by the possibility of a trade to Los Angeles when asked about the rumored deal. “Obviously, I live in Los Angeles in the offseason. I grew up a Dodger fan. When those conversations started, I think it was an interesting position for me to be in.”

The trade that was on the table at the deadline was rumored to be a package of Yasiel Puig, Brandon McCarthy, and two undisclosed prospects in exchange for Braun.

Personally, I believe that the Dodgers would be getting the much better side of this deal. Ryan Braun is still extremely productive at 32 and is under a very affordable contract until 2021. For the Brewers to give up their top trade piece, I think they should get back more than a shaky right fielder with potential but attitude problems, an oft-injured pitcher who hasn’t had a season with an ERA below 4.00 since 2012, and two likely weak prospects.

I do believe the Dodgers should be the Brewers’ trade partner to unload Braun. It just makes too much sense for them to acquire the star outfielder for them to not go through with it. I just don’t believe that the deal should be the same as the one discussed at the deadline.

Instead of the package being built around just Puig, I think it should include the Dodgers’ top prospect, first baseman Cody Bellinger, as well.

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For the Dodgers’ to throw in their top prospect and future heir to first base after Adrian Gonzalez finishes out his contract in 2018, they would want something more than just Braun from Milwaukee. Los Angeles looks like it is going to lose third baseman Justin Turner to free agency this offseason. Luckily for them, the Brewers have just the piece to replace him – Jonathan Villar.

Villar came out in a big way in his first year with the Brewers, hitting .285 in almost 700 plate appearances and swiping an MLB-high 62 bases. He is young and under team control until 2021.

Luckily for them, the Brewers have just the piece to replace him – Jonathan Villar.

You might be wondering why a rebuilding team like the Milwaukee Brewers would be willing to give up a guy as talented and controllable as Villar. It’s because Villar is expendable since they already have his replacement on the roster in Hernan Perez. Perez is just as young and is much better on defense. His hitting is improving and he is just too valuable not to make room for in the starting lineup. Dealing Villar at his peak value is an opportunity that Milwaukee can’t pass up on.

Since Braun and Villar are both established, affordable players, the Dodgers would likely have to add a few less-valuable prospects to the package of Puig and Bellinger to satisfy the Brewers.

The final trade would look something like this:

Dodgers get OF Ryan Braun, 3B Jonathan Villar

Brewers get RF Yasiel Puig, 1B Cody Bellinger, RHP Jordan Sheffield, C Austin Barnes

This would be a great deal for both sides.

The Dodgers would be getting two proven contributors who can help them win now. Adding Braun and Villar to a lineup that already boasts Joc Peterson, Corey Seager, and Adrian Gonzalez would be enough to make a deep playoff run assuming they all stay healthy. Braun is an obvious improvement over Puig, and Villar is a better (and cheaper) all-around option than Justin Turner.

The Brewers would be receiving a Cuban slugger with a lot of promise in Puig along with three of the Dodgers’ top ten prospects (numbers 1, 8, and 10 in MLB.com’s rankings). Puig could rediscover his 2013-2014 self with less distractions in Milwaukee, and the 6’4” Bellinger would slot in as Milwaukee’s first baseman of the future. He has real face-of-the-franchise potential that the Brewers haven’t had at first base since Prince Fielder left Milwaukee. Sheffield and Barnes would give the Brewers two players with starting potential at positions of need. Barnes could even compete with Martin Maldonado for the starting spot at catcher right away as he finished the year  with the Dodgers in 2016.

Los Angeles seems to be the most likely destination for Braun. I just really hope that David Stearns gets a top prospect like Bellinger out of the deal. Not having Braun in the three-hole will be off-putting at first, but if Bellinger develops like he’s supposed to then the Brewers could have a new superstar to build their lineup around come 2018.

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