Dom Brown Needs 600 PA in 2011

As Phillies fans brace for the loss of right fielder Jayson Werth, they look towards a bright future that includes phenom prospect Domonic Brown. Brown was not impressive in his 35 games at the Major League level, finishing with a triple-slash line of .210/.257/.355. Even worse was his performance against left-handed pitching: .077/.071/.077 in 14 plate appearances.

Brown’s struggles can be blamed partially on his irregular playing time in August and September. He battled a quadriceps injury as well as reduced playing time, since Charlie Manuel refused to cut into 38-year-old Raul Ibanez‘s time on the field.

With the off-season bringing a flurry of rumors, many fans are speculating on platoon partners for Brown in 2011. SI.com‘s Jon Heyman writes that the Phillies have interest in re-acquiring San Francisco Giants outfielder Aaron Rowand or signing free agent Magglio Ordonez. David Murphy notes that Jeff Francoeur and Matt Diaz are lesser-known, cheaper options to join Brown in a platoon.

It seems like the platoon is a foregone conclusion. Why platoon Brown, the only prospect the Phillies have guarded, in his first full season in the big leagues? Why stifle his development? Why try to fix something that isn’t broken? Matt Gelb reported, as of his writing in late July, Brown had been hitting .318 against southpaws with Triple-A Lehigh Valley prior to his promotion. Bill Root made a similar observation for SI.com, saying, “Impressively, the left-handed power hitter has hit left-handed pitching at a .282 clip in his career; his ability to hit southpaws will only accelerate his learning curve in the majors.”

Why not platoon Ibanez, who has an OPS 90 points lower against southpaws than against right-handed pitching in his long career? Ibanez is older, much worse defensively, and has less to offer with his bat.

Another foregone conclusion seems to be that the platoon partner will come from outside the organization. Cash-strapped as it is, it would make more sense for the team to use Ben Francisco — who will likely be awarded less than $1 million in arbitration — in a platoon. Francisco has a career .350 wOBA against left-handers compared to Ibanez’s .330.

Platooning Ibanez and Francisco in left field allows Brown to rack up north of 600 plate appearances in 2011, which is exactly what he needs to develop into an elite Major Leaguer. By sheltering young players from environments in which they struggle, the problem is only exacerbated. Brown will never learn how to hit Major League lefties unless he is exposed to them. Sure, he may struggle, but this is the route the Phillies chose to take by coveting him as a prospect and being unable to budget in a new contract for Werth.

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49 comments

  1. Goldenmonkey

    November 04, 2010 08:08 AM

    Were just assuming here that the platoon partner is for brown. Right? Nobody with the phillies has formally suggested it… Except from charlies reluctance to play brown a lot in aug and sept. Hopefully they are looking as a 4th OF type and to platoon ibanez mostly.
    ,
    Doesn’t fit the phillies MO, but it’s a hope of mine. Hopefully brown produces enough to force their hand against a platoon.

    And lastly, yes 100 times to the Francisco platoon. He’s a perfectly capable 4th OF. Hell, could start in a lot of places. Why not let him rather tha. Go to someone who we know will suck?

  2. bsizzle

    November 04, 2010 08:13 AM

    Sometimes I feel like we’ve spoiled ourselves by having all stars at every position and cy young winners on the mound every day. It seems like it’s become more and more difficult for younger players like Brown, Mathieson, Bastardo to break in and get the daily reps they need to succeed in the majors.

  3. Jake

    November 04, 2010 08:52 AM

    I say let the kid play. If his defense costs us games so be it. He’s got a cannon arm and wheels. He’ll figure it out. Plus its not like defense matters that much in our bandbox.

    I think the platoon argument really should be directed at Raul. He’s no worse at hitting lefties, doesn’t throw well and has nothing to learn. I’d much rather see Raul/Francisco in left and Brown in right.

  4. Scott G

    November 04, 2010 08:54 AM

    Bill,

    So is it safe to assume you’ve given up on the Phillies re-signing Werth? If so, can you explain why?

  5. Bill Baer

    November 04, 2010 09:04 AM

    Here’s a look at the Phillies’ payroll obligations:

    spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tSSu2Qy8G9pTSsguHAbeu-A&output=html

    They’re currently at $144 million with several spots to fill, including a couple bench players and a few relievers. Depending on how they fill out, a starting pitcher could fit in there as well.

    If the Phillies raise payroll another 20% (they raised it 22% last off-season), they’ll be at about $166 million. So they have about $22 million to work with.

    The consensus median deal for Werth seems to be five years at $75 million, or $15 million per year. If the Phillies don’t backload the contract, then they will have $7 million in which to round off the rest of the roster, which I don’t think is enough — especially when you factor in that the Phillies will be calling up players during the season (making a pro-rated salary of the Major League minimum $400,000) and acquiring players at the trading deadline.

    A payroll increase of 20% is a lot, but even so, I don’t see how the Phillies can round out the rest of the roster effectively by committing 68% of their remaining payroll space to Jayson Werth.

    I hope I’m wrong and they surprise me, but I’m betting on the field here.

  6. Sean Cunningham

    November 04, 2010 09:05 AM

    @ Scott G,

    Well, the Phillies did offer Werth a year 4-year/$66 million offer and he said no. I can’t imagine the Phillies going much higher than that when they have such a fantastic prospect in Brown.

  7. Sean Cunningham

    November 04, 2010 09:15 AM

    I, for one, am totally supportive of bringing Dom Brown in and making him an everyday player. I think he will struggle, but this is a part of the game. I agree with you on every aspect of this article, Bill.

  8. Scott G

    November 04, 2010 09:19 AM

    I really don’t understand why everyone assumes the Phillies must put Brown in RF. Can someone tell me why a team wouldn’t want Ibanez for 1 year and ~6 mil? I really don’t get it. Trade Ibanez, get another 5-6 million in wiggle room, and sign Werth. Throw Brown in LF.

    If Brown is the replacement for Werth, who hell replaces Ibanez next year?! Or will they throw another 3 year $30-something million contract his way? If Jeff Francoeur or Aaron Rowand ever don a Phillies jersey I will lose my mind. Maybe the Phillies don’t need to sign a guy that awful, but would they prefer to spend 10-12 million on an Ibanez or 16-17 million Werth. Werth is a premier hitting outfielder, and he’s very good in the other aspects of the game as well.

  9. Bill Baer

    November 04, 2010 09:31 AM

    What teams would want Ibanez, though? The market for old, declining corner outfielders isn’t exactly booming, even at reduced rates.

  10. John K

    November 04, 2010 09:36 AM

    man i wish you had the ear of the front office

  11. bill

    November 04, 2010 09:38 AM

    Brown needs to play next year, there’s no doubt.

    He definitely looked a little lost out there in the field, but he showed flashes of great power, and with 500+ PA we could see if he can maintain a good batting average and OBP. This guy was the number 1 prospect in all of baseball towards the end of last season remember, once the more ready guys(Heyward, Strasburg, Santana, Posey) got promoted.

  12. ryan

    November 04, 2010 09:47 AM

    I 100% agree. Brown needs to play a full season. They need to bring in someone who can backup in centerfield because I don’t think that Brown can handle that. I would use Francisco to platoon mainly with Ibanez but also to give Brown a few days off against really tough lefties. There’s really not much need to sink more money into this thing when we already have the players in place. If Ibanez really goes downhill or Brown proves incapable of handling the job, then you go out and trade for a corner outfielder before the deadline. If the rest of our team stays relatively healthy, we should run away with the division and probably the best record in the league. The few dollars that are available should be used to ensure that we resign Valdez, a righthanded bat for the bench, and some bullpen help.

  13. Scott G

    November 04, 2010 10:22 AM

    If you’re trying to tell me that there isn’t a market for veteran’s on a team trying to make a run, I guess I’ll have to believe you. The Phillies were dumb enough to give a 37 year old a 3 year contract, but there isn’t anyone “dumb enough” to get a 39 year old guy for 1 year for like 5-6 million? They re-signed Pat for that much money and he is 5 years younger. Outrageous.

    If you can’t trade Ibanez, I’m sure you can trade Victorino.

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    November 04, 2010 11:02 AM

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  15. derekcarstairs

    November 04, 2010 11:38 AM

    I agree that Brown should not be platooned.

    I would not have a problem, though, if he started the season at AAA and was promoted to the Phils on July 1. In that case, the Phils could make good use of somebody like Ordonez on a modest, two-year deal. Ordonez Ordonez could start the season in RF and take over for Ibanez once Brown is brought up.

  16. sean

    November 04, 2010 12:02 PM

    ordonez in the field scares me. he’s a huge injury risk at this point. dom brown should be in right field, it’s his “natural position”. it’s not impossible for him to play center field btw. ibanez isn’t getting traded(most likely), so just going to have to live with what we got for now. scottG if you can name a team that needs a vet left handed platoon player, that can barely field, please we’re all ears to know the team

  17. sean

    November 04, 2010 12:08 PM

    and looking at the numbers Ordonez is an everyday player, not a platoon guy. his splits are fine versus righties and lefties. he turns 37 next year

  18. Scott G

    November 04, 2010 02:07 PM

    Raul Ibanez finished 2010 with a .341 wOBA

    17 players who compiled more than 350 PAs as a LF did worse. 5 of those players were on AL teams (Fred Lewis, Brennan Boesch, Rajai Davis, Juan Rivera, and Juan Pierre).

    Ibanez could play LF and DH if moved to an AL team. I’m not even implying the Phillies get anything back. Maybe Rheal Cormier.

  19. Aaron H

    November 04, 2010 02:24 PM

    I’d take Scott Eyre instead

  20. Owen

    November 04, 2010 02:52 PM

    Signing Werth does two things. It gives the Phillies their right-handed bat in the middle of the order (which I don’t know if anyone realizes, but no team is pulling their stud left handed specialist because Ben Fran. is splitting Utley and Howard… in fact they probably aren’t pulling their lefty for Polanco either).

    It also…. gives the Phillies 2 centerfielders. Which does two more things for the Phillies. The first is that Werth becomes the permanent backup for Victorino. If Victorino went down it would mean a below average centerfielder would fill in (Brown, Francisco, or whoever they sign). The second is that Victorino’s contract is up after 2012. Signing Werth gives the Phillies flexibility in who they sign to replace Victorino (whether its resigning Vic, moving Werth to center and signing a stud in a corner, or signing a free agent centerfielder…. any way you put this… it gives the Phillies future options/flexibility, which is what they currently lack

    Also a few questions for Bill Baer.

    1. Do you know anything about the $11M from the Astros in the Oswalt deal? Is that spent? To be spent this year? Or a combination?

    2. Last season my season tickets increased from $27 to $29. A lateral increase across all ticket prices would mean an additional $7m (this figure is based off $2×40,000 seatsx 81 home games…. note this is actually an underestimated amount!). And that is assuming a lateral increase across all seats (which I’m guessing some seats went up by more than $2).

  21. Owen

    November 04, 2010 02:55 PM

    My second question was:

    2. Shouldn’t these increasing profits enable our payroll to increase substantially each year? In other words the Phillies are certainly not in debt right now, shouldn’t their increasing profits also see increasing payrolls consistently (obviously an eventual ceiling, but why now?)

  22. Bill Baer

    November 04, 2010 02:58 PM

    Owen, according to Cot’s Contracts, it looks like $7 million of it will come into play for 2011. That leads me to believe that the remaining $4 million was used for the remaining two months last year.

    spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=tSSu2Qy8G9pTSsguHAbeu-A&output=html

    You didn’t ask any other questions, but I’m assuming you’re implying that the Phillies should have more money based on ticket sales. That may very well be true but we really have no way of knowing exactly how many ticket sales correlate to payroll. Same for merchandise, concessions, advertisements, etc.

    But yes, as the Phillies continue to sell out every home game, sell a metric ton of gear, etc. they should continue to boost payroll. Whether it will be by 20% or more is another story. Raising payroll by 20% starting at $138 million is a lot different than starting at $113 million, after all.

    EDIT: I didn’t see you had posted another comment. Fortunately I read your implication correctly. :)

  23. Owen

    November 04, 2010 03:19 PM

    The 20% increase from $138m is very different from increasing from $113m when thought about in terms of sustainability. Learning from the Yankees there is definitely a ceiling at some point. So I guess I want to know your opinion on why we (Phillies fans) should see 2011 as the year to put an end to the increase. 20% each year would be unsustainable, but in the middle of perhaps the winningest period in Phils history, I don’t see why we can’t increase substantially for 2011. Do you believe its a strictly a concern about the future of the core players regarding age? And when thinking about the future is it unreasonable to think the Phillies payroll could finally settle down the line a few years as the 2nd highest payroll behind the Yankees? I guess some serious fear could be becoming the Cubs and having an outlandish dollars to wins ratio

  24. Richard R

    November 04, 2010 03:27 PM

    I think Dominic Brown is a fraud and in no way should be counted on to replace anyone in the Phils outfield. Phillie fans are so used to mediocre players with “potential” that they really think this guy can play. It is only in the last 4 years have they had major league qulity players in the lineup from top to bottom.

  25. Bill Baer

    November 04, 2010 03:27 PM

    Owen, I don’t think it’s so much a concern of viability but whether or not ownership will even consider it. As usual, I can’t say for sure but the organization seems to be very formulaic in their handling of payroll. I’m sure they could have gone to $175 million last year if they wanted to but they are first and foremost a business. If they felt they were championship-caliber at $140 million, why go further?

    As the spreadsheet linked above details, the Phillies are really only cash-strapped for this season. If they don’t pick up Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge’s option, they will clear about $55 million. Of course, they will then have that many more spots to fill as well as retaining Jimmy Rollins, Cole Hamels, Ryan Madson, etc.

    If ownership felt they would lose fans (tickets, merch, etc.) as a result of Werth’s departure, I don’t think there’d be any doubt he would don red pinstripes in 2011 and beyond. But as popular as Werth is — at least, among the fans — I don’t think he’ll make an impact on that stuff.

    All this was written on the walls when the Phillies handed that free agent contract to Raul Ibanez and told other teams to back off of Dom Brown.

  26. Owen

    November 04, 2010 03:36 PM

    Much more understandable when thought about from a business standpoint rather than a fan’s standpoint. Thanks Bill.

  27. Scott G

    November 04, 2010 03:51 PM

    Then shouldn’t we start a “Boycott Phillies tickets to keep Werth” group? I mean everyone wants him here. If they don’t, “they need to slap theyself” (Chad Ochocinco on Rex Grossman over McNabb supporters).

  28. hk

    November 04, 2010 04:27 PM

    It would seem that a number of AL teams – Chicago, Detroit and Oakland come to mind – could do worse than Ibanez as a LH part of a DH platoon if the Phillies were willing to pick up $6M or $7M of his salary. However, according to Cot’s, Raul has some no-trade protection. Is it a full no-trade clause or is it one of those deals where he can name a certain number of teams to which he cannot be traded?

  29. schmenkman

    November 04, 2010 04:48 PM

    Scott G, absolutely you should start a boycott.

    On a completely unrelated topic, where are your seats? Just asking in case they become available.

    Seriously though, sure I’d love to keep Werth, if money were no object. But do I think it’s the most efficient spend of all those millions? No. He’s 31, we’ve seen his peak, and it’s time to give Brown a full time shot.

  30. Jason K

    November 04, 2010 04:59 PM

    Getting creative here – would it be possible to include someone like Matt Rizzotti, who is tearing up the Arizona fall league and is blocked indefinitely by Howard, in a trade as an incentive for an AL team to take Ibanez’s salary off our hands? Which would free up a good deal of the money for Werth, of course.
    Or do you view Rizzotti more likely as trade-bait for a Scott Downs type reliever, or other deadline acquisition?

  31. Dan

    November 04, 2010 05:14 PM

    Or maybe Rizzotti could be used to get an heir apparent for JRoll.

    Haven’t seen too many straight-up prospect swaps. Seems like something that should happen more often.

    Back on topic, Werth is not more important than the team to me. I would pay to see this team without Werth. Werth is just an added benefit if we can keep him.

  32. CH Phan

    November 04, 2010 05:29 PM

    @Sean Cunningham: For what it’s worth (I swear, no pun), take Heyman w/a grain of salt. Don’t believe just because he put his name on it & it’s in SI. These days that doesn’t mean much.

    Heyman’s role has become a bit of a conduit though which front offices & agents funnel info & trash to get reactions fr the other side (or not) & to see ‘what the traffic will allow’ (re: the FA market).

    I worked sports (& entertainment) PR for a few yrs in nyc, & the alleged info “the Phillies did offer Werth a year 4-year/$66 million offer and he said no,” sounds suspiciously ‘front office’. Reasons: 1) no way to back it up & nobody to back it up; and 2) it’s obviously negative toward Werth.

    Also, Jeff Borris (ex-agent) said June maybe?) the FO wouldn’t talk to him. Werth followed by saying they’d (assume he meant he & Jeff) take the season & see how he played before contract talks.

    So WHEN was that $66mil offer made and WHO will back up the info? I doubt we’ll ever know.

    I work w/Yankees & Mets fans all around me. They were shocked at the way Amaro talked about Werth at the press conf. His remarks were classless & should’ve been saved for the contract table.

    For my part, I think it’s best for BOTH SIDES to work it out, however untenable it may look. I think the team needs JWs particular skills & I think JWs skills, personality & character are particularly suited to Phila, its fans, the team, etc. I mean he doesn’t mind being boo-ed. Who is okay w/that, seriously, except the guys on this team? And I’ve seen vid of Werth shrugging & saying, “I deserved to be boo-ed.” He hits a HR & points to his RF peeps. He’s spent his last couple of months working out with & helping train Brown who says, “He’s like a big brother to me”. Okay, he’s not Mike Sweeney, but we should keep this player.

  33. Dan

    November 04, 2010 05:51 PM

    CH, I think everyone here would agree that we would love to keep Werth. However, Werth has earned himself a big pay day, and the Phillies can not (or will not, can’t say for sure) give him what other teams will offer him.

    You can be sure, though, that anybody (save for maybe Brown) will be booed by the RF fans. Especially if they struggle.

    I’ll be anticipating “Jayson Werth” chants for the opener. The tone of that chant will depend on whether or not Jayson is still a Phillie.

  34. John Pilecki

    November 04, 2010 07:04 PM

    Mike Schmidt struggled mightily when he first came up into the bigs. Brown is in a much better position, being on a team considered among MLB’s elite; Schmidt received the brunt of nearly two decades of Phillies’ fan frustration. Brown should survive his learning experience just fine.

  35. Steve

    November 04, 2010 08:23 PM

    I hope the FO sees the situation as more than “give Brown his shot” vs. “resign Werth”. That’s a sucker’s choice. As has been said by many others, Brown could and should play in place of Ibanez before he plays in place of Werth. I see enough reason to assume someone would take Ibanez. I also see Ibanez being interested in a trade if he sees little playing time with Dom Brown in his spot.

    I think we also need to be realistic about the risk that Dom may not pan out to be the next Mike Schmidt, etc. 2010 was a tough year for Dom in the majors. He may improve like Schmitty, but for every Schmitty there’s a hundred others that didn’t improve, and their names are long forgotten. Why let your biggest offensive talent just walk away, when your other outfielders are aging, unproven, or erratic?

  36. Scott G

    November 04, 2010 09:46 PM

    I’m glad I’m not the only one.

    Yes, I want Brown to get a full time job. No, it doesn’t need to be instead of Werth.

    Also, the Phillies have plenty of money to re-sign Werth. They can literally do anything they want. I mean in all seriousness, the owners are probably billionaires (combined). There is no cap, and they can honestly spend as much money as they’d like. I also think it’s reasonable that they could raise the payroll A LOT before they would suffer a loss. Even so, as Bill mentioned, this year is the only year that the Phillies would be pushing the payroll.

    Werth is not on the decline btw, Schmenkman.

  37. Bill Baer

    November 04, 2010 11:16 PM

    You could boycott to make yourself heard, but you’d have to get a very, very large group of people involved before you’d come close to making a dent in the collective wallet of the Phillies’ ownership.

    And, of course, you’d be depriving yourself of Phillies baseball. Who has that kind of willpower? Not even Gandhi.

  38. Sean Cunningham

    November 05, 2010 01:51 AM

    @CH Phan, I realize that Heyman isn’t the most reliable and I should take him with a grain of salt, but I have to believe that Werth will probably want more. First of all is he deserves more, but I don’t think the Phils can afford it.

    I think if the Phils could trade Ibanez, they could keep Werth, but realistically, he isn’t trade-worthy material. Who would want him really? The best option probably would be to let Werth walk, platoon Ibanez, and let Brown play. He more than likely struggle, but potentially succeed. If you don’t let him play, how will you ever know? Did we know Hamels would be as successful? or Howard? Utley? or Rollins? The list goes on. You take your chances on rookies and that’s what the Phils should do with Brown.

  39. schmenkman

    November 05, 2010 08:04 AM

    Scott G,
    “Werth is not on the decline btw, Schmenkman.”

    No, but chances are he will be very soon. It would be rare for a player to have their best season from age 31 on, although examples can be found. Werth was a late bloomer, mostly due to injuries, so sure it’s possible he could continue improving, or at least maintain his 2010 level. It’s just not very likely.

  40. Dan

    November 05, 2010 01:06 PM

    No, Dom Brown deserves 350-400 ABs and will have to earn the next 200 or so ABs.

  41. JRVJ

    November 05, 2010 07:00 PM

    Bill,

    It’s been confirmed that the Phils will be raising prices next year, between $2 to $5 per seat.

    www.philly.com/philly/blogs/phillies/Phillies_increase_ticket_prices.html

    Realistically, this means a revenue increase of about $10MM per year (probably more, actually).

    What do you think the Phillies should do witn an extra $10MM in revenue to play with?

    Other than eating some Raúl Ibañez money in a trade and signing a younger player to man LF, the only thing that I would suggest of note is improving the bullpen a little (resigning Contreras would be OK, but the Phils definitely need an extra arm) and maybe getting a good super sub for the infield.

  42. Bill Baer

    November 05, 2010 07:15 PM

    Would the Phillies be able to increase payroll more now by raising next season’s ticket prices? They’re pretty confident that they’ll draw, but it’s no guarantee and they shouldn’t spend freely on that assumption.

  43. JRVJ

    November 05, 2010 07:25 PM

    I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your answer.

    First, my understanding is that ballplayers get paid DURING the season, not now.

    Thus, neither the expenditures and income sides of the Phillies ledger reflect 2011 disbursements made prior to the season (though I think some salary is paid during spring training and bonuses are a tricky thing).

    Second, if you’ve had a very, very high attendance record the last few years, I think you can reasonably expect to be getting over 3.5 MM in 2011 (and may even get 3.8 MM again).

    It’s not unreasonable at all to think you’re going to be getting a big chunk of extra revenue in the next year.

    From different exchanges we’ve had in the past, I believe that you would rather the Phils not use up the resources now, but wait until the middle of the season to fill-in holes as needed (we had an exchange about this last year when discussing possible extra relievers).

    I don’t necessarily disagree, but considering that the Phils are going to get some significant salary relief next year (with Ibañez, Rollins and possible Lidge of the books), I could see them taking on some 2012 salary in the latter part of 2011.

    Also, one extra thing the Phils could do to free up salary for 2011 is to shop Joe Blanton around. With Oswalt aboard, Blanton is at best a 4th starter on the Phils, which is pretty pricey for $10+MM per year.

  44. Bill Baer

    November 05, 2010 08:24 PM

    I wasn’t asking as a counter-argument, but as a legitimate question. Accounting is not my forte, and it sounds like you’re much more versed in that stuff than I am. If what you’ve said is the case, then I agree that they can and should loosen the purse strings a bit.

  45. Richard

    November 05, 2010 10:32 PM

    who replaces Rollins? (probably Rollins himself) who replaces a shopped Blanton? (yeah, he’s the 4th best starter on the Phillies, but he’s a 3 on most teams, a 2 on some)

  46. Dan

    November 06, 2010 02:00 AM

    Bill, a few friends and I were talking about who the best possible replacement for Werth could be (in terms of a right-handed bat, not a RFer) and an interesting name came up.

    Braun.

    The Brewers are going to be shopping Fielder because they can’t sign him long term. Is it possible they would part with Braun? If so, do you think it would be possible to try selling high on prospects like Rizzotti and Zeid, while also shipping Ibanez (eating some of his contract) to Milwaukee in order to get Braun, and consequently reducing our age at the corner OF spots significantly?

    I know it seems like a long shot, but Braun seems to meet all the requirements the Phillies want. Thoughts?

  47. hk

    November 06, 2010 09:06 PM

    Dan,

    It’s very unlikely because Braun is signed to a team friendly deal through 2015. He makes $4M next year, $6M in 2012, $8.5M in 2013, $10M in 2014 and $12M in 2015.

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