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Ryan Braun Rumors
5:21pm: According to a source familiar with the case, Braun's original test for performance-enhancing drugs was "insanely high, the highest ever for anyone who has ever taken a test, twice the level of the highest test ever taken," writes Teri Thompson of the New York Daily News.
3:55pm: Yahoo's Jeff Passan reports (in these five Twitter links) that baseball's new CBA contains a provision stating that if a player tests positive for a banned substance, the drug will be publicly announced. The Players' Union could contest the announcement, as Braun's test was conducted under the old CBA, which prevented that information from becoming public. Experts say that false positives are nearly impossible under the carbon-isotope testing performed by WADA. His source also confirmed that MLB has never lost an arbitration case with PEDs. Ultimately, Passan says it's unlikely Braun's appeal will stand, and we'll probably learn which substance Braun tested for.
SUNDAY, 11:50am: Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports hears from a source that Braun tested positive for a prohibited substance, not a performance-enhancing drug (Twitter link). Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel was told the same thing, with his source saying there's "never" been a result like this since MLB's drug testing program began.
SATURDAY, 6:46pm: Reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun has tested positive for a performance-enchancing drug, reports Mark Fainaru-Wada and T.J. Quinn of ESPN. YokalSports.com was the first to report the news (on Twitter). Braun is facing a 50-game suspension and is disputing the positive test through arbitration.
"There are highly unusual circumstances surrounding this case which will support Ryan's complete innocence and demonstrate there was absolutely no intentional violation of the program," said a spokesman for Braun in a statement. "While Ryan has impeccable character and no previous history, unfortunately, because of the process we have to maintain confidentiality and are not able to discuss it any further, but we are confident he will ultimately be exonerated."
Braun, 28, was tested during the playoffs and notified of the positive result in late-October. Elevated levels of testosterone in Braun's system triggered the positive test, which prompted MLB to ask the testing agency to perform a second test. The second test determined that the testosterone was exogenous, meaning it was produced outside of Braun's body.
Tyler Barnes, a spokesperson for the Brewers, said the team had no knowledge of the positive test and had not yet been contacted by the commissioner's office. Fainaru-Wade and Quinn say that Braun has told those close to him that he did not knowingly take an illegal substance and hopes the arbitration process proves his innocence. No player has ever successfully appealed a positive PED test.
The Brewers signed Braun to a five-year contract extension worth $105MM back in April, which will keep him in Milwaukee through 2020. He led the Brewers to the NL Central crown and took home MVP honors by hitting .332/.397/.597 with 33 homers and 33 steals this past season. It was his fourth 30+ homer season in his five years as a big leaguer.
Newsday's Ken Davidoff shares his winners and losers of the Winter Meetings, with a twist — he includes winners with downside and losers with upside. The Cardinals top the latter list, as Davidoff notes that losing Albert Pujols means they're "liberated of an albatross contract." Here are a few more Sunday morning NL Central links:
- The Brewers are still talking to Aramis Ramirez, tweets Jon Heyman of MLB Network. The Brewers appeared to be favorites for Ramirez, with the Phillies' interest fading and the Angels having spent their money elsewhere. However, Francisco Rodriguez's acceptance of arbitration may impact Milwaukee's pursuit of the third baseman.
- In light of Ryan Braun's positive PED test, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports explains why MLB will never be as clean as the league would like.
- There's a lot at stake for Braun, the Brewers, and the league, says Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, who received a text message from Braun saying the positive test was "B.S."
- Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review recognizes the Marlins' strategy of significantly boosting payroll as they begin playing in a new stadium. As Biertempfel writes, the Pirates tried the same thing when they moved into PNC Park ten years ago, albeit with less impressive signings.
Ryan Braun won the 2011 NL MVP, according to the Baseball Writers Association of America. The 28-year-old becomes the third Brewer to be named MVP, joining Rollie Fingers and Robin Yount. Braun hit 33 homers, stole 33 bases, drove in 111 runs and posted a .332/.397/.597 line for a league-leading .994 OPS in 2011.
Braun obtained 20 of a possible 32 first-place votes to win the award over Matt Kemp, teammate Prince Fielder and Justin Upton. Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Lance Berkman, Troy Tulowitzki, Roy Halladay and Ryan Howard rounded out the top ten.
Braun assumes that Fielder will likely command upwards of $150MM this winter whereas Reyes can be had for around $120MM. The four-time All-Star was quick to admit that he's a huge fan of Reyes.
"[Reyes] is dynamic, man — he is one of the most exciting players in the game," the 27-year-old said. "He plays with a lot of energy and a lot of emotion and I enjoy watching him play. He's one of my favorite players to watch. Whenever their games are on, I love watching him, man. He always plays the game the right way. He always plays hard. He runs everything out."
The Brewers can easily make room at shortstop this winter as they hold a $6MM club option on Yuniesky Betancourt's deal with a $2MM buyout.
Six players signed deals worth $100MM or more last offseason and they've now completed one year since finalizing their respective deals. Here's a look at how baseball's newest $100MM players fared in 2011 (in order of contract value):
- Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies, ten-year, $157.75MM extension – This deal, which was somewhat unexpected last offseason, is going as well as the Rockies could hope. Tulowitzki put together another tremendous season: .302/.372/.544 with 30 home runs at shortstop.
- Adrian Gonzalez, Red Sox, seven-year, $154MM extension - Gonzalez led the American League in hits and nearly won the batting title in his return to the Junior Circuit. He posted a .338/.410/.548 line and hit 27 homers on his way to an MVP-caliber season. His seven-year extension officially kicks in next season, though.
- Carl Crawford, Red Sox, seven-year, $142MM contract - Crawford posted a sub-.300 on-base percentage, saw his stolen base total drop by 29 and hit fewer home runs, triples and doubles than he did during his final season in Tampa Bay. The Red Sox still owe him $128MM, so they have to find a way to turn their left fielder's career around.
- Jayson Werth, Nationals, seven-year, $126MM contract – Though Werth doesn't like the idea that 2011 was a lost season for him and the Nationals, there's no denying that his numbers fell off. He had a .232/.330/.389 line with 20 homers and 19 stolen bases.
- Cliff Lee, Phillies, five-year, $120MM contract – We knew Lee was good, but it would not have been fair to expect this kind of year: he posted a 2.40 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 1.6 BB/9 in 232 2/3 innings.
- Ryan Braun, Brewers, five-year, $105MM extension - Braun could win the MVP after leading the league in slugging percentage (.597) and OPS (.994). He hit 33 homers and stole 33 bases, posted a career-high .397 on-base percentage and made his fourth consecutive All-Star team.
Crawford and Werth were sources of excitement for their respective teams when they signed free agent contracts and the outfielders have since become sources of concern. The other position players – Tulowitzki, Gonzalez and Braun – have turned in MVP-caliber seasons, while Lee should be a top-three finisher in this year's NL Cy Young balloting.
The latest on the Brewers on a night that owner Mark Attanasio, a native of the Bronx, watched his hometown team beat up on the club he owns…
- Brewers GM Doug Melvin told Jack Curry of the YES Network that Ryan Braun could be the Brewers' answer to Cal Ripken Jr. or Derek Jeter (Twitter link). Braun, who is signed through 2020, has a .308/.390/.554 line with 16 homers this year.
- Braun has been among the most productive hitters in the league, but he told Danny Knobler of CBS Sports that Prince Fielder "has probably been the MVP in the National League" so far. Fielder has a .305/.426/.611 line with 21 homers and a league-leading 68 RBI.
- Melvin told Knobler that Fielder has had a "great attitude" this year. The GM isn't going to distract Fielder, a prospective free agent, with extension discussions any time soon.
- Mat Gamel, who may take over at first base if Fielder leaves as a free agent, told Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he remains focused on 2011, not Fielder's possible departure.
- The Cardinals have minimal interest in Sergio Mitre, who was designated for assignment by Milwaukee yesterday, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post Dispatch (on Twitter).
- The Brewers would like to strengthen their bench, potentially with a right-handed hitter, according to Knobler.
Every year a few select players join baseball’s exclusive $100MM club with free agent deals and mega-extensions. Last offseason was no different – we saw six players sign nine figure deals. The contracts were all for five years or more, so it’s far too early to call them successes or failures. But as the season approaches its halfway point, let’s check in on baseball’s newest $100MM players:
- Troy Tulowitzki, ten-year, $157.75MM extension – Tulo has slowed down after a scorching start, but he's still having an excellent season. His .274/.339/.491 line and 13 homers look especially good when you consider that he's a good defensive shortstop.
- Adrian Gonzalez, seven-year, $154MM extension – Red Sox fans dreamed of a season like this when Theo Epstein acquired Gonzalez from the Padres in December. The first baseman is a leading MVP candidate with a .350/.403/.603 line and 15 home runs.
- Carl Crawford, seven-year, $142MM contract – Crawford was heating up before he hit the disabled list, but his numbers are poor overall. He has a .243/.275/.384 batting line, just 8 stolen bases and his lowest walk rate (3.2%) since 2002, his rookie season.
- Jayson Werth, seven-year, $126MM contract – Werth is hitting just .233/.334/.409, though he has 10 home runs. Nationals fans may be consoled by the fact that Werth erupted in the second half last year and has traditionally produced better after the All-Star break.
- Cliff Lee, five-year, $120MM contract – The prize of the offseason free agent market, Lee has a 3.12 ERA with 9.6 K/9 and 2.1 BB/9 in 104 innings. The lefty is in the midst of another fantastic season and this time he doesn't have to worry about being traded.
- Ryan Braun, five-year, $105MM extension – Braun is having a monster year. He has a .310/.397/.555 line with 15 homers and a career-best 12.1% walk rate for the first-place Brewers.
It's fair to expect Werth and Crawford to turn their seasons around and produce as they did before signing nine figure free agent contracts. The other four additions to the $100MM club are justifying the deals, at least to the extent that it's possible in less than three months.
After losing five of their first seven games, the Cardinals went 14-5 to finish April with a two-game lead in the NL Central. As the Cards attempt to extend their current winning streak to five games this afternoon behind Jaime Garcia, here's a roundup of today's NL Central-related links:
- The ninth inning carousel in St. Louis has been the team's achilles heel so far, says Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Ryan Franklin is out as the closer and is in the final year of his contract, but GM John Mozeliak doesn't know who the Cardinals' closer of the future is yet. "This season will dictate if [Mitchell] Boggs or [Jason] Motte or [Eduardo] Sanchez is the answer," he said. "It's a little early to render that verdict."
- Farm director John Vuch tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the Cardinals have placed an emphasis on acquiring power arms in recent years.
- Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports digs into the specifics of Ryan Braun's long-term contract extension with the Brewers.
- Carlos Pena isn't the first big free agent bat to get off to a slow start for the Cubs, writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. Despite a poor April, Pena still believes he can be a "huge contributor" in Chicago.
- The promotion of former fourth overall pick Danny Moskos gives the Pirates two left-handed relievers, something that manager Clint Hurdle was hoping for heading into the season, according to Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Every club but the Astros is within two games of first place in the NL Central, where Joey Votto is following his MVP season up with a phenomenal start. Here's the latest from baseball's biggest division…
- The Brewers have signed infielders Hainley Statia and Angel Gonzalez to minor league deals and assigned them to extended Spring Training, according to MLB.com's Adam McCalvy (on Twitter).
- Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. told McCalvy that he was pleased to see Ryan Braun sign long-term in Milwaukee, where he is under contract through 2020. Ripken, of course, spent his entire 21-year career with the Orioles.
- Starlin Castro committed three errors in one inning yesterday, but as Yahoo's Jeff Passan explains, the 21-year-old shortstop has overcome bigger obstacles than that. Before he signed with the Cubs, Castro's father took him out on a fishing boat in the Dominican Republic and gave him a taste of a life he might have known if he hadn't become a pro ballplayer.
- Braun's extension includes at least $18MM in interest-free deferrals to be paid out in equal increments between 2022-31, blogs Adam McCalvy of MLB.com (per The Associated Press). All told, Milwaukee will be paying Braun till he's 47.
- Braun's extension makes less sense than the one Troy Tulowitzki signed with the Rockies, and it may even be riskier than Ryan Howard's with the Phillies, writes Dave Cameron of Fangraphs. The fact that Braun is a bat-first player and has a shaky glove at a non-premium defensive position doesn't bode well for the Brewers' side of the deal. Interestingly, Cameron suggests Braun could eventually move to first base, which is likely to be vacated by Prince Fielder, who is a free agent at season's end and is not expected to re-sign with Milwaukee
- To that end, while most have surmised that the Brewers' immense financial commitment to Braun signifies the end of the Prince era in Milwaukee, Fielder himself hopes that is not the case, blogs McCalvy. "You never know," Fielder said. "I hope they have a little left for me."