Kyle Lohse vs. Joe Saunders
Tom Gorzelanny vs. Hisashi Iwakuma
Wily Peralta vs. Felix Hernandez
This weekend isn't really about the actual games being played for the Mariners organization. If you've watched any games on television over the past few weeks, you've surely seen the repeated commercials for Ken Griffey Jr's Mariners HOF induction ceremony, the fireworks night, or the bobblehead promotion. Not that the Mariners get Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez on back to back nights, or that the Mariners get to play the Brewers in Seattle, which according to our friends at Brew Crew Ball, it hasn't happened since Kyle Seager was nine years old.
Instead, this weekend is all about Junior. Nathan is writing a piece about how he feels about the whole situation tomorrow, so I won't totally spoil it. We had an interesting conversation about how Junior probably did the Mariners a favor by leaving when he did, and Mike Cameron was quite a bit better than Junior was with Cincinnati over the four years Cameron spent with the Mariners. Nevertheless, it's still an interesting topic that is more about irrational emotion than it is logic and reason. Saturday's game is the actual ceremony, and they'll cap it off with a fireworks display at night. It's sold out or close to it, because you know this city can't resist a promotional night or a chance to relive the past.
The Brewers find themselves at 49-66, which is good for 5th in the NL Central. In the aftermath of Ryan Braun's suspension, the focus has turned to the team's new superstar, Carlos Gomez. It's August, and I'm still completely stunned every time I see what Gomez is doing. He's at 5.5 WAR through 108 games, providing plus plus defense and plus speed to go along with his excellent bat, where he has posted a wRC+ of 135, just a touch better than Kyle Seager, at 134+. Gomez's WAR of 5.5 is good for 5th among all position players. It's higher than Chris Davis. Carlos Gomez is super good.
Gomez's ascent is especially noticeable because of the power he's developed. Even after 2012's breakout, his extension in March was met with some healthy skepticism, as Eno Sarris investigated whether the deal would be worth it or not. Sarris noted the upside and the negatives, but pointed towards signs that indicated he was truly finding himself as a hitter. Despite swinging at more and more pitches, Gomez continued to hit more fly balls every year, and the power surge was a natural progression.
In 2013, Gomez has turned more of those fly balls into line drives, and is now posting a career best ISO of .238. He's still a hacker, swinging at 55.5% of all pitches, 38.3% out of the zone. His swing profile looks almost identical to the year before, so his success has been a result of harder and better contact, despite his aggressive approach.
Gomez's extension is dirt cheap for his production level, and he'll earn just $24 million through 2016, after which he'll be entering free agency at 31. There's a pretty good chance he's going to be more valuable than Ryan Braun is to the Brewers through that time period, which brings me to my next point. It's a sensitive topic that I probably shouldn't rosterbate over, but I'm going to do it anyways.
What if the Brewers traded Ryan Braun?
Braun has limited no-trade rights included in his deal, but given his perceived betrayal to the fanbase, is a divorce something that both sides would consider? It seems reasonable to speculate. The Brewers owe Braun a minimum of $117 million over the next 7 years, but it's a deal that was widely considered somewhat of a bargain given escalating costs of retaining elite talent. The contract isn't back-loaded, and actually decreases in the last few years of the deal. Braun is only set to make $10 million in 2014 and $12 million in 2015, and it doesn't really get expensive until his age 32-34 seasons at $19 million each. The commitment runs through Braun's age 36 season.
There's really only one thing at play when considering a possible trade of Braun. What kind of player is he like without PEDs, and is he worth the salary? Even though his salary isn't totally through the roof, there's a pretty good chance he could still be a pretty good player. Now entering his 30s next year, it's fairly safe to assume that Braun's best years are behind him. How severe will the drop in performance be when coupled with Braun exiting his prime years? How long has Braun been juicing?
Nobody has the answers, which is exactly why the Brewers might consider getting out of that contract. He's the face of their franchise, but is it a face they still want to represent them with everything that's transpired? Braun's teammates are upset with him. There's a chance, albeit small, this offseason could get really interesting for Ryan Braun.