For the second straight year, Ryan Braun has achieved the pinnacle of greatness: the #1 position in BrewCrewBall's MVBrewers series. After several years of turmoil with which we are all well acquainted, Braun has now recorded two consecutive All-Star level seasons with the Milwaukee Brewers. Entering his age 32 season, Ryan was coming off a .285/.356/.498 season in which he slugged 25 HRs and stole 24 bases.
Even with a successful season and All-Star appearance in 2015, giant question marks still circled around the embattled outfielder. Could he stay healthy? Would his production further diminish as he continued into his 30's? Should he be part of a salary dump?
Braun did his best to answer these questions in 2016, providing his best offensive output since his MVP runner-up season of 2012. The Hebrew Hammer battered opposing pitchers to the tune of .305/.365/.538 with 30 HRs while swiping 16 bags. This all produced a wRC+ of 133. Essentially, Braun performed 33% better than league average. Though probably deserving of another All-Star selection, Braun did not make his 7th All-Star appearance. Instead, he went home to California with his wife and daughter, knowledge I am privy to as a friend of mine sat a row behind him on a Southwest flight on the way back to Milwaukee. (Who would have thought Braun flew Southwest?!)
A move back to his longtime home in left field saw Braunie's defensive output improve. He was an above average left fielder according to DRS, saving 6 runs for the club's pitching staff. UZR objects to this conclusion, however, rating his fielding contributions at -2.9 runs. I guess we could call his defense a wash. He didn't necessarily hurt the team, and he certainly didn't add great value with the glove. League average is a pretty apt description. All told, he was worth 4.4 bWAR, the 16th most valuable position player in the NL, and 5th most valuable OF.
You can expect a fair amount of trade speculation this winter, as several national writers all but guaranteed that a trade with the Dodgers was within minutes of being completed before the 12:00 am September 1st post-season eligibility deadline. Talks could resume after the World Series is concluded and the offseason begins in earnest. Personally, I would rather not see Braun in another uniform. There are a lot of mixed feelings on the franchise's leader in HRs, and rightfully so. Yet, he's my favorite baseball player ever, and I'm sure there will be plenty of debates later this offseason as to whether or not Braun should be traded.
Braun was very valuable this season, but with 4 years and $76M left on his deal, some may believe his value is greater as a trade chip. Only time will tell us Slingin' Stearns' position. What about you? Do you want the Brewers to trade the face of the franchise?
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs