As calendars turn to June, the Major League Baseball rumor mill will start to churn. We already know one prominent member of the rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers will be heavily involved in rumors and ultimately will likely be traded (Jonathan Lucroy), but Ryan Braun is also a possibility.
Via the Boston Globe on Sunday, Braun is "the hot name out there." The Astros, Cardinals, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, Giants and White Sox were mentioned as possible destinations.
His case is complicated by myriad factors, though.
First off, there is the PED stigma. For whatever reasons -- some legitimate, some silly -- this stigma seems to stick harder to some players (A-Rod, Braun) than others (Marlon Byrd, Jhonny Peralta). Braun is pretty widely hated by many fan bases outside Milwaukee, though, so any team looking to trade for Braun probably would need to consider the impact for a quick second.
Of course, once a guy is wearing any particular fan base's uniform, and hits well for them, he'll be beloved in an instant. That's just how it works.
And, boy, is Braun hitting well. Through 170 plate appearances, he's hitting .351/.424/.583 with eight doubles, nine homers and 30 RBI. He's third in average, fourth in OBP and fifth in slugging in the NL. Those boos from, say, Cardinals fans all of a sudden morph into rousing ovations if he's wearing the uniform with birds on a bat with those numbers.
Of course, he hasn't been able to play every day. Through 50 Brewers games, Braun has only started 39 and missed nine altogether thanks to various neck and back issues. Any acquiring team would need to consider the health aspect for sure.
Also of note is Braun's contract. He's making $20 million annually through 2018. In 2019 he'll make $19 million and in 2020 he's set to make $17 million. There's a $15 million mutual option for 2021.
If Braun keeps hitting the way he is now and can stay on the field, he's easily worth that money, but in 2020 he'll be 36. A guy who already has neck and back issues at 32 holding up into his mid-30s in this day and age isn't a great bet. It's a risk, albeit one with big upside.
The Brewers would likely want back a combination of salary relief and prospect return. Probably a balancing act. For example, if the prospect return is huge, the salary relief probably wouldn't be and vice versa. This would depend upon which teams discuss trading for Braun and resources are at their disposals.
As with every aspect of Braun right now, it's complicated.