Love him or hate him, Ryan Braun is the face of the Milwaukee Brewers. At one point he was arguably their most famous player--though guys like Robin Yount and Tim Dillard could also make that claim. At this point however, infamous is the more apt term. Before his suspension he was his day's Kris Bryant. After the suspension he was MLB No. 1b Most Hated--Alex Rodriguez of course was 1a.
It's been a rough few years for the outfielder but things looked like they were getting back on track last season. Then came the offseason back surgery. He's missed the last few spring training games with a stiff back leading to questions about his ability to stay healthy in-season. For his sake I think everyone can agree we wish him the best on the road to a full recovery. But there's also the business side to consider. A wonky back could scuttle any potential trade before conversations even begin. But there's one other thing that could stop a trade from happening.
The Brewers signed Braun to a 5 year $105 extension in April of 2011. The 2016 season will be the start of that contract. The money involved is not insignificant, but it's also not what the elite players make these days. It's also front loaded: $20M from 2016-2018, $19M in 2019, $17M in 2020, $15M mutual opt w/$4M buyout. There are deferments as well: $4M in each of 2016-18, $3M in each of 2019-20. The deferments will be paid in equal installments from 2022-2031. That evens out to $1.8M over a 10 year period. Or in other words pennies. Assuming Braun's back is fine and he can have another season like last year, his contract is very tradeable--even if the Brewers will always have to eat some of the money. But there is one more stipulation included in Braun's contract to consider.
He has significant trade protection which allows him to block trades to all teams except the Dodgers, Angels, Marlins, Rays, and Nationals. But at some point in the 2017 season that will no longer matter. Ryan Braun has 8 years, 129 days of MLB service time. Which means he needs one full season (183 days) and another 54 days of MLB service time. In other words, he should attain 10-5 rights around May of 2017. Any player that has accrued 10 years of MLB service time and spent the last five seasons with the same team gets full trade protection.
It doesn't seem like the teams he can't block trades to would be interested in acquiring Braun. So any potential deal will likely require him signing off on it. Once he gets the 10-5 rights it definitely will. He has signed his big money deal already. All that's left for him to consider is winning a World Series and comfort.
We know he's comfortable in Milwaukee. And we know the rest of baseball fandom basically hates him. So it's probably safe to say his comfort level will be diminished to some extent with any other team. How much that matters to him only he knows.
Going to a competitive team will almost certainly be appealing to him. But I'm operating under the assumption that he won't be traded until after the 2016 season at least. The Brewers won't be a competitive team in 2017. But they might be in 2018. And they're only going to get better from then on. At some point the Brewers will be competitive again. Perhaps highly competitive. Maybe Braun will be fine dealing with a couple more losing seasons to stay in Milwaukee where he knows the majority of people are over the suspension. Or maybe not. I have no idea.
When we talk of Braun's trade value it's often a debate about whether the Brewers can get enough for a trade to make sense. But non of it matters if Braun doesn't want to go. We saw an example of that this winter when Brandon Phillips blocked a trade to the Washington Nationals. It's an interesting question. But of course, none of it matters if the back won't hold up...
Contract details courtesy of Cot's Contracts