Braun among intriguing trade candidates

May 9th, 2017

is days away from acquiring full no-trade protection through 10-and-5 rights, which is sure to inspire fresh discussion about where the Brewers can -- or should -- move him between now and the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.

The upshot: If Braun is dealt this summer, the Dodgers are the most plausible suitor -- especially because the Giants, who've had interest, own the Majors' worst record. Braun lives in the Los Angeles area and undoubtedly would welcome a return home.

The Braun-Dodgers pairing isn't a revelation, as it nearly happened last summer. But so much has transpired over the first quarter of the 2017 season that it's useful to reassess the rest of the marketplace.

Here's an (early) look at the industry's most intriguing outfield trade candidates, in addition to Braun:

, Athletics

If you want to impress your baseball-loving friends, ask them to name the Major League home run leader since the start of the 2016 season.

The answer is Davis, whose power remains unbowed in the pitcher-friendly environs at the Coliseum -- and unrecognized by many fans in the Eastern and Central time zones.

Davis, 29, is a litmus test for whether the A's truly are changing their longstanding baseball and business practices. He's due to hit free agency after 2019, which -- by the traditional Oakland calendar -- means there's a good chance he'll be dealt by Opening Day 2018. But if there's genuine progress on a new stadium in the coming weeks and months, perhaps an extension for Davis will fit the evolving balance sheet.

Davis is a younger, cheaper version of Braun, with many of the same present-day attributes. The multiyear component (at reasonable price points) could generate interest from a classically defined "seller" that is interested in securing a left fielder for 2018 and '19. Unfortunately, a number of teams matching that description are regional (Giants) or divisional (Angels, Rangers) rivals, making such a trade more difficult.

Of course, the A's can table the Davis trade discussion indefinitely if they continue their recent surge: They've won four of their past five, including three consecutive walk-off victories, and have leaped into second place in the American League West.

, Royals

A classic Trade Deadline candidate: Cain plays for a team with the worst winning percentage in the AL, has impressive postseason credentials (2014 AL Championship Series MVP) and will be a free agent this offseason. He's also one of the game's most affable players -- a significant consideration, because contenders want to know how the personality of a short-term acquisition will blend into a winning clubhouse.

Cain, who turned 31 last month, remains one of the Majors' top two-way center fielders. The Dodgers and Mets (if they somehow remain buyers) are possible fits for him.

, Mets

Speaking of the Mets: If they continue their surreal descent from contention, the free-agent-to-be Bruce could be playing elsewhere by early August. Bruce started this season much better than he finished the last one, showing improved plate discipline without sacrificing power.

But it's also true that relatively few contenders have glaring needs in right field, Bruce's primary position. Injuries are likely to change that. He's helped his value -- both on the trade market and in free agency -- by starting six games at first base this season.

, Pirates

McCutchen has displayed class and grace during an awkward period that included an offseason of trade rumors, a move to right field and short-term return to center following the suspension of . Still, the shift to a familiar position hasn't meant a revival of his National League MVP Award-winning numbers; McCutchen posted a .684 OPS over his first 17 starts back in center.

McCutchen's contract lacks no-trade protection, meaning the Pirates can engage any suitor in negotiations. Scouts will watch McCutchen closely over the coming weeks because he's a noted slow starter with the ceiling of a five-time All-Star. His contract includes a club option for 2018 worth a reported $14.75 million; that flexibility has appeal to clubs, as they wait to see how much his production normalizes.

, Giants

The odds of Pence being traded are minimal, but he's included here because the Giants' disillusioning season will force them to contemplate drastic changes. Pence's big contract will limit his appeal to other teams (he's due $18.5 million next season in the final year of his contract). And he's on pace to have his worst offensive year in the big leagues after missing time with injuries in 2015 and '16. But he's a two-time World Series champion who could draw interest if his numbers nudge upward.

and , Blue Jays

The Blue Jays, like the Giants, didn't arrive at Spring Training with any expectation of becoming sellers at this year's Trade Deadline. But that reality stares back at the Jays from the AL East standings each morning. Toronto is 6-3 over its past nine games -- but has dropped one game farther from first place during that span. Bautista (.550 OPS) needs a dramatic rebound in order to have any trade value, following an offseason in which he drew limited free-agent interest. Pillar, who predates the arrivals of club president Mark Shapiro and general manager Ross Atkins to Toronto, has appeal in the industry because of his relatively affordable salary and superior defense.