Dodgers mailbag: Should they go after Milwaukee slugger Ryan Braun?

The Dodgers are 7-6. That translates to an 87-win pace, but there is little reason to draw major conclusions from a few weeks of games. The team finishes up a four-game series with Arizona on Monday, with a chance to take three of four.

As always, there is plenty to discuss. You can send me questions on Twitter @McCulloughTimes. Let’s do this.

Put your hands over your ears, then?

The chatter connecting the Dodgers with Ryan Braun has always felt a tad strange to me, as Braun does not exactly fit the profile of the sort of player President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman likes to pursue. Braun is 33, he can only play a corner outfield spot (and maybe only left field) and he’s locked into an expensive contract.

As one rival evaluator told me last summer, “It’s a lot of money for an inflexible, left-field-only player with injury history. These are the types of players they’re trying to get away from.” Now, after flailing against left-handed pitchers throughout 2016 and often at the start of 2017, the team’s calculus may change. But Braun is still an imperfect fit, especially if the need is as simple as finding an outfielder who can mash southpaws. Those players basically grow on trees.

The Dodgers were linked to Braun last summer, in a deal that reportedly would have involved Yasiel Puig and Brandon McCarthy, and there were more talks this winter. My current understanding is the Dodgers are not seriously involved in discussions about Braun. That could change, obviously, but it’s April, and six-time All-Stars rarely get traded in April.

The Brewers may be feeling pressure to shed Braun from their roster, though. His 10-5 rights, which would allow him a full no-trade clause, kick in on May 24. For plenty of reasons, it would make sense for Milwaukee to move him before then, when Braun would hold all the leverage. Braun may not handcuff the Brewers like Brandon Phillips did in Cincinnati, but he would control the situation.

Braun makes a lot of money. The Brewers owe Braun $20 million this season. They owe him $20 million in 2018. They owe him $19 million in 2019. They owe him $17 million in 2020. In order to buy out his mutual option for 2021, the Brewers must pay Braun $4 million. In all, the team owes him $80 million.

The Dodgers, of course, can afford this. They have the largest payroll in the sport for the fourth consecutive season. But under Friedman, the team has tried to trim money off the books. They also would like some financial flexibility for after 2018, when Clayton Kershaw can become a free agent.

If the Dodgers continue to flounder against left-handed pitchers, Braun will be out there. But so will Andrew McCutchen, and a slew of players less expensive than Braun.

Soon. Quite soon, I think.

Hi Ross!

I would not be shocked to see Julio Urias replace Rich Hill in the rotation after Hill's latest blister setback. The assignment may go to Alex Wood, but with an off-day on Thursday, the Dodgers can re-set their rotation and skip Hill’s spot for a turn. The need for a fifth starter will not re-emerge until the end of April.

Which, conveniently, is when Manager Dave Roberts suggested Urias would join the big-league squad.

Hard to say. Adrian Gonzalez has been a very good player for more than a decade, and has earned the benefit of the doubt regarding his first 50 plate appearances. He’s shown an ability to reshape his swing to remain productive despite whatever his physical condition may be. But there have been some troubling signs early.

Some scouts I talked to noted his inability to drive the baseball, which could be related to the elbow that bothered him for most of spring training. Gonzalez has two extra-base hits thus far. Both were doubles. He is hitting .238, and has often tried to take the ball the other way, rather than pull. That is not exactly encouraging.

It’s 50 plate appearances. Gonzalez found a way to be productive in 2016, despite various issues with his neck and back, so perhaps he can do the same in 2017. But if he is still hitting .238 in June, and if Cody Bellinger is still hitting .395 in triple-A (or some realistic equivalent), it’s a discussion worth revisiting. Bellinger looked lost in the Cactus League in March, but there’s a reason the organization refused to discuss him in various trade scenarios over the winter.

Bellinger is likely to debut in the majors this season. When and where may be more dependent on Gonzalez’s health and production than on whatever Bellinger does in Oklahoma City.

That sounds about right. Ryu has not dominated, but he’s been useful. Given the severity of his shoulder surgery, that is a victory for both him and the organization. The bigger question is whether Ryu can post every fifth day for an extended period of time. His fastball velocity dipped during his second outing, which isn’t encouraging. I’m curious — and I suspect the Dodgers are too — to see how he holds up in the coming weeks.

It’s hard to frame the Dodgers as “giving up” on Zach Lee. He had spent three seasons in triple-A, from 2014 to 2016, and had a 4.89 earned-run average in 13 starts for Oklahoma City when the Dodgers traded him. By that point, he had been surpassed on the internal depth chart by Julio Urias, Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling and Jose De Leon. He was never going to be a member of the Dodgers rotation.

The Dodgers got back Chris Taylor when they sent Lee to Seattle. Lee got walloped in Tacoma (7.39 ERA in 14 starts). The Mariners put him on waivers. He is pitching for a San Diego team that is not interested in winning games in 2017. Even if he’s in Oklahoma City, Taylor has more value on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster than Lee would.

I suppose it’s possible, but I’m not sure which other teams would be willing to part with significant assets to acquire an aging, expensive player who has taken 24 at-bats since 2015. If Andre Ethier is healthy and productive, the Dodgers want him on the roster. If he is neither healthy nor productive, it doesn’t make sense for another team to want him.

Not particularly.

Not particularly.

You made a pair of egregious omissions by forgetting Vietnamese* and Thai. Those two are 1-2 in my power rankings. Followed by:

3. Chinese

4. Mexican

5. Italian

6. Japanese

7. Greek

8. French

9. Indian

*One of my rare gifts is the ability to name a decent Vietnamese restaurant in every American League city (the National League is a little tougher, for whatever reason). If you’re searching for pho in Cleveland or Tampa let me know. I can hook you up.

I haven’t watched much. I’ll probably browse “Payback” in a couple weeks, but I have little interest in the weekly shows. They seem miserable.

Goo Goo Dolls. No offense to the Blossoms, but this should not be a debate.

I don’t know what the players do in the air, but I usually try to sleep while listening to music. I’m always in the market for relaxing music, but I can’t find anything that tops “Lost In The Dream” by The War on Drugs or Jason Isbell’s “Live From Alabama.” I sleep in 45-minute intervals, for whatever reason. I’ll fall asleep midway through “Decoration Day” and wake up to “Dress Blues.”

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