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The Giants should poach one of the Brewers’ young center fielders, but there’s a problem

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The Giants would like a defensive-minded center fielder. The Brewers have the perfect fit, except for one tiny detail

Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

The Giants are still looking for a starting center fielder. The Giants are still looking to stay under the fake salary cap. It’s going to be really, really hard for them to do both if they’re not going to give the job to Steven Duggar. They would have to make a trade for a center fielder who hasn’t reached arbitration yet.

The Brewers are not still looking for a starting center fielder. They traded their best prospect for one on Thursday, and a couple hours later, they signed another one for $80 million. Considering that there’s no way to trade Ryan Braun, and it doesn’t make sense to bench him, that leaves them with an entire outfield of pre-arbitration players who are all blocked: Domingo Santana, Keon Broxton, and Brett Phillips.

The Giants would love to help them with that.

Start by eliminating Santana, who is a fine player, but iffy defensively and limited to a corner. Even if the Giants wanted to bench Hunter Pence, which they don’t, they would still have the problem of needing a center fielder who isn’t Austin Jackson or Steven Duggar. The other problem with Santana is a bigger one, but we’ll get to that.

Brett Phillips would be perfect. And we could have a lot of fun with this:

He’s more than just a laugh, though! He’s a top prospect who hit well in his major league debut last year. While his left-handed bat wouldn’t be the greatest fit in AT&T Park, it would certainly balance the lineup and outfield a little bit more. He gets sterling defensive reviews, and he wouldn’t make more than the minimum salary.

Or, to put it another way, Phillips was worth more in 98 plate appearances than the Giants’ entire 2017 outfield combined. He would help.

Ah, you’re sold on Phillips, I see! Yes, he would be a dynamic addition. The Giants wouldn’t worry so much about blocking Duggar. They would get the talent first and figure the rest out later, sort of like what the Brewers are doing right now. Considering all of this, Phillips would be an excellent fit.

There’s only a teensy little problem. The Brewers wouldn’t trade him to the Giants. Phillips is their best trade chip now, and considering that they are clearly trying to make a statement for 2018, they’re going to trade him for something that will help them win in 2018, and they have the most obvious roster hole in baseball. They need starting pitching. Good, reliable starting pitching. We’re talking Chris Archer or Danny Duffy, who are the kinds of pitchers they would expect to get back for Brett Phillips.

The Giants don’t have an extra Chris Archer to spare. Fresh out. Even if the Brewers were absolutely in love with Jeff Samardzija or Johnny Cueto, they would just buy a pitcher like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, or Lance Lynn if they had that kind of coin left to spend. And then they would trade Phillips for a cheap pitcher, because they need more than one additional starter.

That’s not even mentioning that the Giants sort of need Samardzija and Cueto for their hare-brained scheme to work this year. If the Giants could trade Cueto for Phillips and then sign Darvish for Cueto money, it could work! And if I could smooth out the folds in these cardboard wings, I would be able to fly my car to Disneyland in just under an hour.

Phillips is out. Not unless it’s as part of some convoluted three-team trade, but that would require the other team to be in love with something the Giants have more than Phillips and, ugh, just forget it. Look elsewhere.

That elsewhere is with the last outfielder, Keon Broxton. He has warts. He hit .220 last year. His on-base percentage was .299. He struck out 175 times in just 463 plate appearances last year. He will swing at a butterfly that is just trying to make it somewhere warmer, dammit, leave that butterfly alone.

The Giants can afford an outfielder with warts. It’s kind of what they need. They’ll have to look for the beauty that isn’t skin deep, and I think it’s there with Broxton. He has modest power. His fielding numbers weren’t pretty last year, but I’m choosing not to believe them. All of the numbers and reports from before last year were pretty sweet.

And there’s potential buried in there. For example, here’s what Jeff Sullivan wrote about Broxton before last season:

Sometimes things don’t work out. For example, this morning, I dropped my bagel when I was climbing the stairs. Had things gone according to plan, I would have not dropped my bagel when I was climbing the stairs.

Uh, scroll down.

He’s killed his grounders, which doesn’t matter very much, but he’s also killed his non-grounders, which does matter very much. To play the arbitrary-threshold game — Broxton is one of just nine players with multiple batted balls in the air that came off the bat at at least 114mph. What the overall average demonstrates is that Broxton has good batted-ball consistency. What the peak demonstrates is that Broxton also has a high power ceiling.

And this was followed up later with an article that was titled, “How Keon Broxton looks like the Brewers’ best player.” The headline didn’t age so well, but the information it contained was all legitimate. There were reasons for hope. There was hard contact and tools and such.

What we have here is a player who would fit the Giants for 2018. If Broxton didn’t work, there would be options behind him. He fits the roster. But he wouldn’t be the absolute cornerstone of what they’re trying to build. If the tools didn’t turn into production pretty quickly, the Giants could go with Duggar and Jackson, like they might be planning to do already.

All of this requires the Brewers to sell extremely low on Broxton. Considering he’s currently their sixth outfielder, there’s a chance they’ll do that. But they’re more likely to trade Phillips and Santana away for some reliable starting pitching, and they have no reason not to like Broxton as a fourth outfielder making the major league minimum. Considering the advanced age of Braun and Cain, keeping Broxton might be a huge part of their plan.

So we’ve come full circle. Yes, the Brewers have two center fielders who would help the Giants. No, they probably aren’t going to get one of them. They don’t have the whiz-bang young starter that would get Brett Phillips, and the Brewers won’t have a desire to give Keon Broxton away after they thin out their outfield surplus.

Well, I guess Madison Bumgarner counts as a whiz-bang young starter, but you know what I mean. There’s a fit with the Brewers, but only if you’re standing from 100 feet away. The closer you get, the less sense it makes.