The Brewers are rebuilding this season, which brings along with it trade rumors involving everybody on the roster. The Brewers have two really good trade chips in Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy. Let’s take a look at the potential trade partners involving these two players.
Braun is having an MVP type year, hitting .360 with 7 home runs and 28 RBI. He is under contract through 2020 with a club option in 2021 at a very reasonable (by today’s standard) salary. This makes him very attractive to teams looking for a productive outfielder. However, he has a limited no-trade clause that would require his approval for all teams except the Angels, Dodgers, Giants, Marlins, Padres and Diamondbacks.
Looking at this list, we can rule out the Padres and possibly the Angels, as they will probably be sellers this year. That leaves 3 NL West teams and the Marlins. All of those teams are currently within 4.5 games of a playoff spot.
The Marlins look pretty set in the outfield with Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna, and Giancarlo Stanton. The Giants would definitely have a statistical upgrade with Braun, but they may not be willing to upset the chemistry of Angel Pagan, Denard Span, and Hunter Pence.
That leaves the Dodgers and Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks went all in on this season when they went after Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller. Braun can play either corner outfield spot and the DBacks are in need of a right fielder. David Peralta is on the disabled list, but even when he comes back, he is only hitting .260 with 3 home runs.
So, the Diamondbacks could use Braun and they are close enough to contention that they would be willing to pay up for a playoff run. What do they have to offer?
Three of the four top prospects in the Diamondbacks system are pitchers, and two of them are close to being ready for the big leagues. Right handers Braden Shipley and Archie Bradley may have had a chance to crack the rotation this season before Greinke and Miller were signed. Left hander Alex Young is a couple of years off. They also have Peter O’Brien, who can play catcher and first base. He is a power hitter that the Brewers could be looking for at first base.
If the Diamondbacks are willing to offer Young, O’Brien, and either Shipley or Bradley, the Brewers may ship Braun out to Arizona.
The Dodgers have a glaring need in left field. Their current starter, Enrique Hernandez, is hitting just .190. The Dodger hitters in general have been under-performing. Adding Braun to the middle of the lineup could be huge, especially if Yasiel Puig and Joc Pederson start hitting.
The Dodgers are loaded when it comes to pitching prospects. Left hander Julio Urias and right hander Jose De Leon are ready for the jump to the big leagues, and they have Grant Holmes and Walker Buehler further down in their system. The Dodgers also have first base prospect Cody Bellinger at the AA level who could be part of a young Brewer infield in 2018 and beyond.
Just like the Diamondbacks, the Dodgers can put together a package of 2 or 3 pitchers and a first baseman for Braun, but they have better pitchers to offer.
Lucroy is having a fine season, hitting .287 with 6 home runs, 8 doubles, and 23 runs scored. He is getting back to his 2014 All-Star form offensively, and defensively he is still an elite catcher. He could be that key component that pushes a team over the hump and into the playoffs.
The three teams that I see that are in the playoff race that could use Lucroy are the Dodgers, the White Sox, and the Cubs. We have already looked at the Dodgers, so let’s look at the two Chicago teams.
The Cubs are off to a phenomenal start and have the best record in baseball. Their pitching staff is the reason that they are doing so well. They have not had much production from the outfield or the catching position. Lucroy would be a huge upgrade from David Ross and Miguel Montero. Ross is hitting just .250 and Montero is even worse, hitting .231. Lucroy would do a good job driving in runs and could protect hitters like Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo.
The Cubs have an interesting mix of prospects that will be ready for the jump to the big leagues in the next couple of years. Catcher Willson Contreras would make sense, as he could be ready to jump right into the hole left by Lucroy. Gleyber Torres is a shortstop, but he may be better equipped for second or third base which would fill a potential need. Pitchers Duane Underwood, Dylan Cease, and Oscar De La Cruz could sweeten the pot.
The White Sox are one of the surprise teams of the season, though they have cooled off a little. Dioner Navarro is not an offensive threat and Lucroy would make a huge impact on the team. Having Lucroy in the middle of the order with Jose Abreu and Todd Frazier would be an imposing look when Adam Eaton and Jimmy Rollins get on base.
The White Sox have some solid pitching prospects, like Carson Fulmer, Spencer Adams, and Jordan Guerrero. The Brewers are short on corner infielders in their system, so third baseman Trey Michalczewski and first baseman Corey Zangari could be good fits.
The Dodgers, on top of the prospects that we have already talked about, could offer Yasmani Grandal. He is not hitting well at the moment, but he is a solid catcher that could handle a young pitching staff.
The most likely team to trade for Braun would be the Dodgers. They need a left fielder and Braun is one of the best in the game. They also have the prospects that could meet the Brewers’ asking price.
Lucroy is tougher to pin down. The Cubs could certainly use him to help the offense match their pitching and they do have the prospects to deal. But the Dodgers also could use some more production from the catcher position and could put together a blockbuster move involving both Lucroy and Braun.
There are other teams that could be interested in Braun and Lucroy, as well as some other Brewers like Chris Carter and Aaron Hill. The Mariners have shocked the world so far, and the Rangers are looking for outfielders. And, as the season goes on, injuries crop up and unsuspecting teams rise to the top. You just never know which teams will make the move that provides that playoff push.