On average, Ryan Braun was an early second round pick in most leagues. Many of us in fantasy were willing to forgive and forget the PED scandal of last year and dismissed his shortcomings due to injuries. Before last season, Braun had four straight season scoring 100+ runs, five straight seasons of 100+ RBIs, 30+ home runs in five of the past six seasons and four straight season of hitting .300 or more (he just missed making it five last year by hitting .298). The former first round pick appeared to be a lock to rebound and we were expecting him to come back and silence the critics.
Braun reinforced our feeling this spring batting .412 with a .500 OBA, 3 home runs, 9 RBI and scoring 8 runs. The Machine is BACK………oops, not so fast. Over his first 3 games Braun went 1-11 which is no big deal, we can forgive a slow start; then his thumb called an audible. It’s amazing the power one little phalange has. This is the same thumb injury Braun was dealing with before his season was cut short last year. He had several options presented to him for surgery; since none of them sounded appealing, he opted to rest the injury over the winter in hopes that it would heal. Despite the rest his thumb continued to be an issue all winter; while you wouldn’t have known by his spring training numbers, it’s been a nuisance all spring.
Apparently the nerve in his thumb has become so bad that Braun cannot feel while gripping a bat or throwing a ball. He has been gripping the ball and bat harder as a result which has left him with a number of blisters on his hand. The thumb is completely numb as are fantasy owners after hearing the news. He hopes that it will not last all season, but he also hoped the problems would subside with a little rest over the winter. Braun is hoping, fantasy owners are hoping and I’m hoping that spring is eternal. With a day or two of rest he may get one good day here and there, but this isn’t something that is going to heal itself. So what should fantasy owners do with Braun?
You’re left with only two choices here. You can hold on to Braun and hope for the best (because that has worked well so far), or you can unload him for the
highest bidder best possible offer. If you decide to hold on Braun (not a good decision), don’t wait for the other shoe to fall because surgery is inevitable. He played DH Friday night and was out of the lineup on Saturday. Braun was back in the lineup Sunday going 2 for 4 with a run and stolen base. It’s nice to see him flash some inspiration our way, but don’t let one good day overshadow the fact that he is damaged goods. You need a replacement now if you don’t have one, and you don’t want to be scrambling to find one when the other shoe falls. Owners are flocking to Grady Sizemore, but if he’s available I advise against it. Not because I’m anti-Grady (I am), but because you’re just putting a Band-Aid on a broken bone. Grady hasn’t been healthy in five years and the odds of him making it through the year are slim. When he goes down (and he will) you’ll be back in the same boat with a waiver wire more barren than the lands of Mordor.
The other day I saw Scott Pianowski recommending Charlie Blackmon, and last week I took the opposite side of the argument and recommended Corey Dickerson. Both are wild cards as there is only one spot for the two of them, I’ll leave it to you to decide which player to choose. I’ve also been pimping A.J. Pollock since last year. He’s not off to a great start, but he did have a hot spring and is getting some time at the top of the order. Alejandro De Aza would be my first target if he’s out there, and he’s available in about 40% of yahoo and CBS leagues. It may be too late for CBS leagues, but Angel Pagan is available in over 50% of Yahoo leagues and could be a sneaky source of run & stolen bases. Michael Morse is available in over 60% of CBS and Yahoo leagues. He comes with the same injury risk label as Sizemore, but he’s a better bet to hit for a high average while he’s healthy. Regardless of who you choose, get someone now before you’re left picking through the leftovers.
If you decide to cut bait and deal Braun (again, not a good decision but there is no good decision here), keep one important thing in mind. You are NOT going to get full value for him. Odds are, unless you find an owner that is either a. new b. clueless or c. really high on Braun, you might not even get half value for him. You’re going to take a hit; question you have to ask yourself is, how little are you willing to take? In the days before the news broke, Braun was traded for Hanley Ramirez, Masahiro Tanaka, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper, Yasiel Puig, Justin Upton & Adam Jones. Saturday and Sunday Braun’s was being swapped for the likes of Aroldis Chapman, Colby Rasmus, Xander Bogaerts, Danny Salazar & Yoenis Cespedes. This is what you’re looking at; if you’re in a league with any resemblance of talent as far as owners go, you won’t get much more. The return in package deals was slightly better, but still nowhere near what you paid for him.
If Braun is shut down and has surgery, you can virtually cross him off for this year. Even if the recovery time is only 8-10 weeks, you’re dealing with an injury to part of his hand. This will affect his grip, his swing and more importantly, his power. You might not be happy with what is being offered to you, but is it better than nothing? That’s exactly what you’ll end up with if you hold onto Braun for too long. It’s a tough call to make, either sticking with him or trading him for pennies on the dollar. I’m going to recommend you move forward and do it quickly before the news gets worse. Once that happens you’ll be lucky if someone offers you one of the players I mentioned above available on waivers. Conventional wisdom says not to give away a player of this caliber and that this is nothing more than a panic move. Well, you should be in a panic because your second round pick is on the verge of being toast for the season. My hopes were high for Braun coming into the season and I defended and recommended him more than most, but this news unnerves me. I wouldn’t give Braun away, but if you get an offer of a useful player that is above the caliber of player you’d find on waivers, consider it.
One final note, if you’re in a keeper league, ignore my advice to
give trade Braun away. If you get a decent enough offer I would take it, but you might be better off holding him for now and waiting until the end of the season (or the off-season) to trade him when his value will be higher (hopefully).
What would you do if you were (or are) a Braun owner?