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Is Ryan Braun or Brian Dozier the Better Superstar Bat on Trade Market?

First it was Ryan Braun. Now it's Brian Dozier.

It's hardly a surprise to see the Los Angeles Dodgers linked to a right-handed hitter with power, given the difficulties they had against left-handed pitching in 2016. They were the only team to make the playoffs despite a losing record when facing a lefty starter, and they went 0-3 when facing lefties in the postseason.

Braun (1.010 OPS against left-handers in 2016) could help them. Dozier (.965) could, too.

As of this moment, the Dodgers don't have either one. They haven't traded for Braun, despite midseason talks that nearly led to a deal, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today. They haven't yet traded for Dozier, despite a willingness to discuss top prospect Jose De Leon, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

Both remain available on the trade market, even though Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns told Milwaukee's 105.7 The Fan, "My expectation is that Ryan's going to be here next year and going forward."

You can take that to mean he hasn't received any reasonable offers this winter, because it's hard to believe the rebuilding Brewers wouldn't remain open to a deal.

The question—for the Dodgers and any other team looking to trade for right-handed pop—is whether Braun or Dozier would be a bigger help. They don't play the same position, and they don't have the same contract, but they're similar players in terms of offensive potential.

"Braun is a more complete hitter," said one American League scout who saw both play last year.

"Everything equal, I would take Braun offensively," another AL scout agreed. "But I would rather have Dozier overall."

So would I, for reasons that go beyond Braun's 2013 suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

Braun might be a better bet to hit big in 2017. His 134 OPS+ over the last two seasons, as calculated by Baseball-Reference.com, ranked higher than Jose Bautista and Manny Machado, among others.

But Dozier hit more home runs than Braun and nearly everyone else in baseball in 2016. (He tied Edwin Encarnacion and Khris Davis for third in the majors, with 42.) Dozier, who turns 30 in May, is also three-and-a-half years younger than Braun.

Then there are the contracts.

Dozier's is more than reasonable, with a $6 million salary for 2017 that jumps to $9 million for 2018. He's eligible for free agency after that, so it would cost considerably more to keep him long-term. Still, he's a bargain.

Braun is not. He makes $19 million each of the next two seasons, then $18 million in 2019 and $16 million in 2020, when he'll be 36. He can also block trades to all but six teams. Since the Dodgers are one of the six on his list, and since they're one of the clubs that can afford his contract, it's not surprising that the Brewers' most serious trade talks concerning Braun seem to have been with them.

It's also not a surprise the Dodgers seem to prefer Dozier, who plays a position of greater need.

The Minnesota Twins should have a bigger market for the affordable Dozier, and Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports noted the San Francisco Giants' interest on Tuesday. Beyond those two teams, though, it's hard to come up with a contender in need of a second baseman. The Detroit Tigers faced the same issue when they gauged trade interest in their second baseman, Ian Kinsler.

 

Besides the better contract, Dozier has another edge. The Twins second baseman has played 155 or more games each of the last three seasons, while Braun last played 150 contests in 2012. He played 135 in 2016, never going on the disabled list but missing time with a back injury.

Braun had surgery to repair a herniated disk after the 2015 season, which surely is a concern to any team considering a trade.

Dozier doesn't carry similar risk—or similar baggage. While Braun hasn't been in trouble since serving his suspension, the fact he was busted for PEDs doesn't go away.

As one anonymous team executive told Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, "When a guy with that contract has been busted once, it's hard to commit those dollars and those player resources because if he gets busted again, you lose all of your guys and you lose Braun. Nobody is saying he'd do it again, but while he's a very good impact player, it's just a tough one."

With Dozier, the question is whether you believe his 2016 season was a breakout or a career year. Is he now a 40-homer-a-year guy, or will he slip back to the 18-28 range he was in before last season?

"I have more trust in Braun to maintain the consistency of impact," one National League scout said.

Because of the contract, the acquisition cost, the back trouble and even the drug past, a team trading for Braun would be taking a bigger risk. But it could be for a bigger reward.

         

Danny Knobler covers Major League Baseball as a national columnist for Bleacher Report.

Follow Danny on Twitter and talk baseball.

Read more MLB news on BleacherReport.com

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