Celebration of the Cubs looking like the Cubs of two week ago lasted long into the wee hours of this morning for this guy. In my glazed-eye state, unsure of why I was still awake, I stumbled upon the final few moments of MLB Network’s late night show with none other than the “great” Harold Reynolds.
Reynolds and Eric Byrnes were discussing players who should be on the move come late June or July when the name Ryan Braun comes up. The Brewers are bad and kind of direction-less after losing Prince Fielder and CC Sabbathia a few years ago, leaving Braun to carry them to a handful of last-place finishes. Moving Braun for younger pieces makes plenty of sense.
The conversation carries on with each former player offering a team Braun would make sense on, including the Indians and Mariners. Byrnes briefly interjects with a notion that Braun would make sense in either league, but his familiarity with the National League could make him a fit with a team like the Phillies.
I shake my head to my cat, Ella, but Byrnes corrects himself by saying that would only make sense if the Phillies surprisingly good start continued further into the season. He adds as a final note that Braun would not be a great add for the top teams in the NL because of their depth in the outfield, to which I do concur and begin to reach for the remote to head to bed.
Since we enjoy hot takes on the interwebs and the fallout from them, I offer to you a hot take from someone other than me.
In what had to be a weird out of body experience or maybe it was just the shandy, Reynolds seems to correct Byrnes in saying that a top team in the NL could be interested in Braun because of his offensive prowess.
At this moment I begin to yell internally, ‘DON’T SAY IT HAROLD.’
He did. He says the Cubs could use Braun and that he would be an upgrade over anyone in their outfield currently.
HOLD THE BUS.
Yes, I assume you are having the same reaction as me in this moment.
Okay, now that we’ve briefly recovered from such a thought, let’s quickly break it down. Putting aside all ill-fated thoughts about the former* PED user for the Brew Crew, Braun is obviously a great offensive player. He’s made six all-star games and has a lifetime average just over .300, something the Cubs don’t currently have in their outfield.
I’m not going to compare Braun to Dexter Fowler because there’s no way he could play center well with any consistency. In theory you could move Jason Heyward to center, but that just seems like spinning tires for the sake of doing so.
Braun is a better offensive player than Heyward at this juncture and few would doubt that, but what Heyward provides from the depths of the outfield make up for a few of his deficiencies. The Cubs top two outfielders have combined for 156 putouts, three assists and no errors through 44 games, as well as a 1.0 defensive WAR through the first quarter. Heyward’s .6 mark is only lower than David Ross (.8) and Addison Russell (.7).
Braun is essentially average at .1 in 36 games played. He’s not a liability like he was at times during his transition into the outfield earlier in his career, but he’s not even upgrade on Soler despite posting better numbers this year. Soler’s one errors in more limited chances hampers his early-season score, but Braun cannot match the arm strength in left or right.
So essentially it all boils down to offense in Harold’s rhetorical world, but at what cost? The Cubs offense has had its fair share of letdowns this season, including the most recent stretch of futility that cost them a couple series in succession. Soler has been one of the most frustrating of the bunch, often over-swinging on breaking balls away and low. Frustration with Soler is warranted, but he’s one of the lower salaried members of the lineup and was supposed to keep working as a rotational player this year.
Braun would be an upgrade in the lineup over Soler, but where does he fit in reality? Second? Third? Sixth? It would create an embarrassment of bats, but at what cost?
Even if you could get a good deal for a bat like that, would fans ever be able to get over the fact that he’s been an NL Central villain for the better part of eight years?
What say you?