Though trade rumors have been circulating over the past couple weeks, it appears Milwaukee Brewers left fielder Ryan Braun is far more likely to change positions when he returns from suspension in 2014 than he is to be traded during the offseason. This according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, who reports Braun has expressed a willingness to move from left field to right field next season in order to free up the position and playing time for 25-year-old prospect Khris Davis.
Following the announcement that Braun was be suspended for the remainder of the season on July 22, it was Davis who logged the majority of time in left field. He performed well, too, hitting .279 with a .949 OPS over 136 at-bats. Not a large sample size, mind you, but Milwaukee was pleased with the production (11 homers and 27 RBIs) from the position.
Pleased enough, anyway, to approach Braun about the possibility of changing positions to open up future playing time for Davis — a limited defender — in left field and give the lineup for more flexibility overall. Braun's presence in right field would certainly stabilize that position. Davis and Norichika Aoki would share duties in left, with Aoki getting the lion's share barring a trade this winter. Carlos Gomez is locked in as Milwaukee's center fielder.
There's also a longer term vision behind the possible position change, which is explained by manager Ron Roenicke and general manager Doug Melvin in the MLB.com piece:
"Long term, it's certainly easier for Doug to find left fielders than it is to find right fielders," Roenicke said. "So I think that was the main idea, [knowing we can] put Ryan in a position where we know he can play it defensively and be good at it."
Braun told Roenicke he is open to the idea, a sentiment reportedly echoed by Melvin.
"We just said it was a possibility and explained our thinking on it. He was open to it," Melvin told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Thursday. "So, there's a chance it could happen. Nothing is definite yet.
The move would obviously necessitate a transition period, but Roenicke appears confident that wouldn't be a long-term issue for the athletic outfielder.
"He should be a legitimately good defensive right fielder," Roenicke said. "He's got the arm, he's got the speed, his judgment is good. … I think he likes to be challenged. I told him, it's a matter of repetition. In left field, your brain knows that when the ball is hit at you, it's always going to break toward the left field line, and it's a matter if your brain seeing enough balls to know automatically that it's going the other way. It's going to take a little while before your brain automatically knows that."
Perhaps the challenge would be exactly what Braun needed to keep his focus on the playing field in the face of what will be several distractions heading into 2014 season. Braun knows he has a long journey ahead of him if he hopes to rehab his image, but a selfless act such as changing positions of the greater good for the team would at least put a dent in it. In fact, in the long run, a change could end up benefiting everybody involved greatly.
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