JUNE 14: The Brewers and Giants have thus far had only one “minimal” discussion surrounding Braun, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal reminds that the Giants are one of six teams to which Braun cannot block a trade (along with the Angels, Dodgers, D-backs, Padres and Marlins, as Rosenthal initially reported back in March), but there are nonetheless obstacles to a deal. Chief among them is that Brewers owner Mark Attanasio is more concerned with ensuring that the Brewers receive premium talent than he is shedding a portion of Braun’s notable contract. The Giants’ farm system is considered below average in recent rankings from Baseball America (19th in baseball) and ESPN’s Keith Law (21st), so other teams may be able to offer a better package to meet those demands. Rosenthal also notes that the Giants will need to restock their bullpen after the ’16 season, and spending heavily on Braun limits their ability to do so by pushing them considerably closer to the luxury tax threshold (even with the aforementioned contracts coming off the books).
JUNE 13: With Hunter Pence on the disabled list due to a torn hamstring, the Giants are “looking everywhere” for another outfielder, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports (on Twitter). To that end, they’ve had preliminary discussions with the Brewers about Ryan Braun, according to Nightengale, though he also cautions that there’s nothing imminent between the two teams.
Braun’s name has been mentioned frequently as a potential trade candidate — he sat at No. 3 on Jeff Todd’s most recent trade candidate rankings here at MLBTR — in large part because he’s having one of the most productive seasons of his career on a rebuilding Brewers club. The 32-year-old is batting .316/.378/.541 with 11 homers, 11 doubles and five stolen bases through his first 217 plate appearances this season.
That production aside, the common consensus surrounding the controversial slugger is that the Brewers would likely have to absorb some salary in order to move him. Braun is in the first season of a five-year, $105MM contract extension that was tacked onto his initial eight-year, $45MM deal back in 2011. He’s earning $19MM this season (with about $11.5MM remaining) and is owed a total of approximately $87.52MM through the end of the 2020 campaign. From a contractual standpoint, the Giants can likely afford Braun; Angel Pagan, Santiago Casilla, Gregor Blanco, Jake Peavy, Sergio Romo and Javier Lopez are all free agents at season’s end, and the team has an extremely affordable arbitration class with only George Kontos ($1.15MM in 2016) and Cory Gearrin (pre-arb) looking at raises.
That massive extension for Braun (the largest in Brewers franchise history) came before his 2011 NL MVP Award and also before a messy PED scandal in which Braun accused a test collector of tampering with his urine sample before publicly admitting to steroid use more than a year later in the wake of the Biogenesis investigation.
While Braun certainly comes with some past baggage, he’s regained much of his production and hasn’t failed a test since serving a 65-game suspension to close out the 2013 season. With both Pence and Pagan on the disabled list, the Giants have been relying on a combination of Gregor Blanco and rookies Jarrett Parker and Mac Williamson to flank Denard Span in the outfield corners. None of that trio, however, is enjoying a particularly productive 2016 campaign to date. Pagan has hit well when healthy enough to take the field, but he’s also spent three weeks on the DL with a hamstring injury and missed 10 days earlier this season with that same injury.
What remains unclear at this time, though, is the Giants’ sense of urgency in getting a deal done. Pence tweeted that he underwent his operation last Thursday, and the Giants may not want to make a drastic move until having a clearer picture of his ability to return to the field. Indeed, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle notes (links to Twitter) that the Giants are hoping to hold down the fort until Pence’s return, making a more incremental trade likelier in the short-term. ESPN’s Jim Bowden discussed a Braun/Giants scenario earlier today as well (Insider subscription required), writing that it shouldn’t be a surprise if the Giants pursue Braun and linking prospects Tyler Beede and Christian Arroyo to the Brewers, though it’s not entirely clear if those names are mentioned in speculative fashion. Like Schulman, Bowden implies that a significant move for the Giants would happen at the deadline as opposed to seven weeks in advance, where we presently stand.