If this current winning trend holds up as the heat of summer begins to set in the coming weeks, the Astros may be looking to buy instead of selling at the July trade deadline.
There will surely be numerous names tossed around between now and July 31st. Rumors will surround all 30 franchises as each continue to look for ways to improve their ball club. The Astros are no different. And believe it or not, the rumors surrounding the Astros have already begun.
Per Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Astros could be a potential suitor for Ryan Braun, the embattled star outfielder of the Milwaukee Brewers. Before you get either super excited or downright exasperated about the news, however, remember that this is just a rumor. Nothing will probably come out of this rumor. But the possibility of adding a player of that caliber is intriguing.
Regardless what you think about Ryan Braun as a human being, the Astros would surely benefit from adding an MVP-level bat to this lineup. Imagine Braun hitting next to Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Carlos Correa; admit it, you can’t help but get a little giddy.
This season Braun is hitting the ball in a way that reminds every one of his earlier years in the major leagues. After all, Braun is slashing .348/.415/.573 entering Friday with nine home runs and a .226 ISO. And did I mention that he is cost controlled (5-years, $105 million) starting this season through 2020? Compared to the current market for proven hitters that has to be some win by itself.
But does that mean the Astros should make a play for the Brewers star?
Simply no; at least right now anyway. Braun has yet to exceed a WAR higher than 3.0 since 2012. And while WAR isn’t the be all-end all of the statistics, that measurement has to be a bit concerning to other franchises interested in his services. And as much there is to like about Braun from a production and salary standpoint, the fact that he is 32 years old with a checkered past remains. Some teams would hesitate to make a move for Braun just for those reasons. Even though hitters typically produce better in contracts that take them through their mid-thirties than pitchers, the risk of less production looms over any team considering in trading multiple top prospects for the Brewers outfielder. Everything considered it may be difficult for a team that highly values its prospects to make such a daring trade.
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The Astros on paper though could be a team that is interested in buying at the deadline. Outfield help is needed with Carlos Gomez, Braun’s former teammate in Milwaukee, struggling in his first full season as an Astro. Adding a bat that could supplant Gomez while pairing with Springer and Colby Rasmus would be beneficial. Of course, there still seven-to-eight weeks between now and the trade deadline so the Astros could fall enough to become sellers.
And as you may recall the Astros did make a few trades last season which was designed to push the team over the top. Instead, the team floundered down the stretch before recovering in the playoffs. It wasn’t necessarily the new players’ (Gomez, Mike Fiers, Scott Kazmir) fault that the Astros floundered after the trade deadline. Other factors in play led to that outcome. But the Astros gave up multiple top prospects for little gain so it would be understandable why the general manager Jeff Luhnow and the team’s front office could be weary heading into the 2016 trade deadline.
This point may be debatable, but the worst scenario that could befall the Astros is trading top prospects for proven, yet declining veterans, due to immediate success. But that isn’t saying the team shouldn’t trade for Braun. There are just other factors to consider at the end of the day. And if this strategy somehow produces a World Series title in the next season or two then it would be a worthy price to pay.
Regardless if a trade for Braun materializes, trading prospects for aging, or declining, veterans is definitely a risk. Now, that isn’t suggesting that a hitter such as Braun is on the decline yet. He is clearly producing at a high-level today. But his decline will happen, and most likely during his current contract. In fact, this upcoming trade deadline may actually determine how the Astros view the results of last season’s deadline more than their feelings about Braun.
**Statistics provided by Fangraphs**