When the Milwaukee Brewers acquired Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain in late January, the general belief was that it would be only a matter of time until another outfielder was traded, perhaps for some starting pitching help. Nearly six weeks have gone by since then. Spring Training has started and Cactus League games are underway, and Milwaukee’s outfield depth chart still remains six men deep. According to Tom Haudricourt, however, there is still curiosity around the league in Milwaukee’s surplus of players on the grass, though the player that seems to be garnering the most interest comes as a bit of a surprise:
#Brewers Keon Broxton is two years older than Domingo Santana but because he can play center, has more speed, an option remaining and might not be eligible for arbitration until 2019 (possible Super 2 after this year), I'm hearing he is drawing more interest from teams.— Tom (@Haudricourt) March 6, 2018
Between Keon Broxton and Domingo Santana, it’s clear that Santana is the more productive player. He was Milwaukee’s top offensive producer last season, slashing .278/.371/.505 with 31 home runs and 15 stolen bases for a 126 wRC+. Even when accounting for his defensive deficiencies in right field, Santana was still valued at between 3-3.4 wins above replacement by each of the three most common calculations. The Brewers are believed to have a high asking price for Santana in any hypothetical trade.
As Tom notes, however, there is plenty to like about Broxton as well. He once again showed his tantalizing power-speed potential last season, clubbing 20 home runs and stealing 21 bases in 143 games (113 starts). That accompanied a below-average .220/.299/.420 slash (84 wRC+), though. According to Statcast’s sprint speed metric, only eight players were fast than Keon last season. Defensive metrics are split on Broxton’s level of play in center field in 2017, with DRS and FRAA both grading him as well below-average while Statcast’s Outs Above Average giving him credit for +9 outs, which ranked 11th among the 309 outfielders who qualified.
At this point in spring with the regular season quickly approaching, I question whether moving Broxton to another club would be worth much of anything for the Brewers in 2018. His sky-high whiff rate makes his offensive profile an extremely volatile one, as we’ve seen throughout his time in Milwaukee over the last two seasons. That, plus what has been a somewhat limited trade market for outfielders, probably makes Broxton’s overall value pretty low. David Stearns might be able to convince a team to part with a middle reliever (with the bullpen being another spot where Milwaukee actually has plenty of depth), but it seems more likely that the return for Broxton would be something more along the lines a low-level prospect who is a project, but could have some upside. I’m thinking someone in the vein of a Malik Collymore. Keon has certainly shown he can be a useful player, but he’s not exactly a valuable one.
Cain, Santana, and Ryan Braun each have somewhat checkered injury histories, which makes Broxton more valuable to the Brewers than it probably would to any other team. Slingin’ Stearns can stash Broxton, along with Brett Phillips, in the minors to start the year since both players have minor league options, but that doesn’t mean they’ll stay there for the entire season. It’s worth keeping in mind that the Brewers used 50 players during the course of last season, including 12 different players that appeared in the outfield.
The Brewers made two splashy moves to improve their overall outfield group, but beyond that the transactions that Slingin’ Stearns has made this offseason have been mostly to shore up depth around the big league roster. The Brewers have a surplus of MLB-quality outfielders, but there shouldn’t be any rush to thin the herd unless the deal moves needle for the big league club. Unless some kind of unforeseen and unlikely bidding war breaks out, the far-away flyer type of prospect that Keon Broxton figures to return does not accomplish that. In my opinion that makes more logical to hold on to Keon at this time.
Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs, Baseball Prospectus, and Statcast