Ryan Braun Rumors
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."
In extending Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki through the year 2020, the Brewers and Rockies made bold commitments to their young stars by adding multiyear extensions on top of pre-existing contracts that already covered both men through 2015 and 2014, respectively.
Are these deals risky? Absolutely, but the contracts represent the latest step in how clubs attempt to lock up their young stars. It isn't enough to just gain cost-certainty on a player through his arbitration and first few free agent years. If a team feels they have a true franchise player, it won't hesitate to sign that player to what essentially could be a lifetime contract in order to (hopefully) avoid spending even more money to re-sign that player or a comparable star as a free agent.
Should other clubs look to explore this tactic of extending an extension, here are some of the possible candidates to join Braun and Tulowitzki in the "2020" club.
- Evan Longoria. We start off with the man with arguably the most team-friendly extension in baseball history. Longoria's six-year, $17.5MM contract signed in April 2008 contains three team option years (worth $7.5MM, $11MM and $11.5MM, respectively) that could keep him in Tampa Bay through 2016, his age-29 season. As MLBTR's Mike Axisa pointed out over the winter, however, the Rays' uncertain financial situation makes it unlikely that they would make an even longer commitment to Longoria than they already have.
- Robinson Cano. Cano signed a four-year, $30MM extension before the 2008 season that also includes team option years for 2012 ($14MM) and 2013 ($15MM). New York will obviously keep Cano in the fold through his age-30 season by picking up those two options, unless those years get replaced by a longer-term contract. Cano hired Scott Boras as his agent in February and while Cano said he isn't planning to ask for an extension before his current deal expires, the second baseman is clearly already thinking ahead.
- Justin Upton. The first overall pick of the already-legendary 2005 draft is signed through 2015 on a six-year, $51.25MM extension that will run out when he's 28 years old and right in the middle of his prime years. The Diamondbacks explored a few deals for Upton over the winter and set off a flurry of speculation, but it appears as if GM Kevin Towers was simply doing his due diligence to see if another team would go overboard with a trade offer. Upton had a slightly disappointing (.799 OPS) 2010 season, so Arizona might wait for at least one more superstar campaign from their young star to make sure he's worth the risk of another multiyear extension.
- Hanley Ramirez. It seems odd to think of the Marlins doling out any major extensions, let alone two to the same player. With the team moving into its new Miami ballpark next year, though, the extra revenue could make another multiyear deal for Ramirez into a reality -- not to mention generating some goodwill amongst Marlins fans to get them to spring for season tickets. Ramirez is under contract through 2014 on a six-year, $70MM deal and 2015 will be his age-31 season. If Florida did explore an extension for Ramirez, they would surely have to factor in a move away from shortstop, since his defensive woes (a career -9.4 UZR/150) are likely to worsen as he ages.
- Ryan Zimmerman. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently outlined how the Nationals' previous extension with Zimmerman -- a five-year, $45MM pact that runs through 2013 -- was a terrific bargain for the club. Given Zimmerman's production, age (he'll be 29 when his deal runs out) and Washington's willingness to spend, Zimmerman is probably the most likely player on this list to receive a Braun/Tulowitzki-esque deal.
- Joey Votto. The Reds took the first step towards locking up the reigning NL MVP when they signed Votto to a three-year, $38MM pact that covered the first baseman's arbitration years. Votto is still on pace to hit free agency as a 30-year-old in his prime, and as one agent put it, "the Reds took on all the risk" with this initial deal. Cincinnati has put itself in position to contend over the next few seasons, so that will theoretically take care of the Great American Ballpark's attendance problems and make it possible for the team to get Votto signed to an even longer-term contract.
- Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera signed an eight-year, $152.3MM extension with the Tigers before the 2008 season. He'll turn 33 in 2016, and that advanced age plus his off-the-field issues make him an unlikely extension candidate. Detroit has the money and Cabrera has put up Cooperstown-worthy numbers throughout his career, but there just may be too much risk involved for the Tigers to commit more money to the slugger.
Some news items as Matt Kemp is once again a walkoff hero for the Dodgers...
- Ryan Braun and his agent, Nez Balelo, initially approached the Brewers about the long-term extension Braun signed with the team today, reports Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “We didn’t have to do this and he didn’t have to do this,” said GM Doug Melvin. “Very rarely does it happen where a player understands a franchise and where he’s at, and where he wants to be in the future."
- ESPN's Keith Law discusses the Braun extension, Joe Mauer's future at catcher and several draft prospects in a chat with fans.
- Kyle Lohse is finally living up to his contract and helping the Cardinals' rotation survive without Adam Wainwright, writes Jeff Gordon of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Ryan Franklin's recent criticism of St. Louis fans might ensure that this is his last year with the Cardinals, says ESPN Insider's Doug Mittler.
- How does Brandon Wood compare to other disappointing prospects? Baseball America's Ben Badler investigates (BA subscription required).
- Adrian Gonzalez talks to Chris Jenkins of the San Diego Union-Tribune about how the slugger is adjusting to the heightened expectations that come with playing for the Red Sox.
- Baseball America's Matt Eddy has this week's compilation of minor league transactions.
The Brewers already had Ryan Braun under contract through 2015, but they doubled their commitment to their star outfielder today by signing him to a five-year, $105MM extension that will keep Braun in Milwaukee through the 2020 season. The length and timing of the extension has already generated a lot of reaction from the baseball media. To wit...
- The extension is "a mistake," writes Dan Szymborski for ESPN.com (Insider subscription required), since Braun will be on the decline by the time his extension begins in his age 31 season.
- Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com thinks the club "could have waited a year or two to extend" Braun and feels the extension is risky. However, Knobler noted that mid-market teams like Milwaukee and Colorado (who signed Troy Tulowitzki to a similarly lengthy extension in November) face a risk in letting star players even approach free agency, citing Albert Pujols and the Cardinals as an example. Knobler has a point -- had St. Louis signed Pujols to a five-year, $105MM extension covering 2012-2017 after, say, the 2006 season, the Cards would look like geniuses right now.
- Also in reference to the Tulowitzki contract, Fangraphs' Joe Pawlikowski notes that the Brewers, like the Rockies did in November, are betting on significant contract inflation in baseball over the next decade.
- The overwhelming consensus from almost every writer is that Braun's extension solidifies the fact that the Brewers won't try to re-sign Prince Fielder this winter. Milwaukee GM Doug Melvin, however, says that Braun's deal won't have much effect on what the Brewers may or may not do with Fielder, reports MLB.com's Adam McCalvy.
The Brewers extended left fielder Ryan Braun through the 2020 season, the team announced. The extension is for five years and $105MM, tweets CAA Sports, while MLB.com's Adam McCalvy has the year-by-year breakdown. The contract includes a mutual option for 2021 worth up to $20MM with a $4MM buyout. McCalvy notes that the deal includes a $10MM signing bonus, a no-trade provision, and some deferred salary. The deferrals were key to the deal, CAA agent Nez Balelo told McCalvy.
Braun was already under contract through 2015 on a precedent-setting deal. As I noted on Monday, the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki is the only other player under contract through the 2020 season. Braun and Tulo were drafted fifth and seventh overall in 2005, respectively, and both tacked monster extensions on top of their old team-friendly contracts in 2011. Like Tulo's deal, Braun's contract actually takes a dip in salary toward the end. My biggest concern with Tulo's deal was the difficulty in projecting injury risk rather than performance decline. Braun seems a safer bet than Tulowitzki to remain healthy, though Braun signed his contract even further away from free agency and does not play a premium position.
Braun's new contract represents the largest contract in Brewers history, as did his previous $45MM deal. His agency notes the $21MM average annual value on the new extension is the second-highest ever for an outfielder, ranking behind only Manny Ramirez's $22.5MM AAV on his last Dodgers deal. Among all position players, Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira, Joe Mauer, Ryan Howard, and Alex Rodriguez also have higher AAVs.
Braun will turn 37 shortly after his contract ends, so he may be a Brewer for his entire career, notes Balelo. Braun's career batting line so far: .308/.367/.557 with 133 home runs in 2627 plate appearances. This is likely his final season playing alongside the Brewers' other superstar slugger, Prince Fielder, who will be eligible for free agency.
Early on in the 2008 season, the Brewers and Ryan Braun reached agreement on an eight-year, $45MM extension. In the past three years, the 27-year-old has more than lived up to his end of the pact, hitting .303/.363/.535. While some Brewers fans might worry that the outfielder will become unhappy with his contract that seems to favor the club, Braun has put those worries to rest, writes Adam McCalvy of MLB.com.
"I get it, but it's a non-issue," the three-time All-Star said. "I pay attention to what goes on around the game, obviously, but I'm happy for all of those guys. I agreed to a deal three years ago that goes five [more] years, and I'm excited and honored to be here."
One of "those guys" was Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who agreed to an extension that will provide him with just under $158MM through 2020. It's hard not to draw comparisons between the two as they were separated by just two picks in the 2005 Draft - Braun went to Milwaukee at No. 5 and Tulowitzki to the Rockies at No. 7. Despite the disparity in contracts, Braun insists that he's not jealous of the star shortstop's paycheck.
As McCalvy points out, Braun's deal is still the richest guaranteed deal in Brewers history. It could be surpassed by Rickie Weeks' five-year, $50MM extension, but that deal can be voided in the final year if he is not a regular in 2013 and 2014.
In case there was any doubt, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Brewers aren't going to trade Ryan Braun. However, the Brewers are open to trading any of their other top hitters for rotation help. That means Rickie Weeks, Casey McGehee and, of course, Prince Fielder would be available in the right deal. Here are the details and the rest of Rosenthal's rumors:
- The Brewers don't want to trade top players for back-of-the-rotation starters, but teams are reluctant to include top young pitchers in potential deals.
- The Padres have spoken repeatedly to the Brewers about minor league infielder Brett Lawrie, who could be obtained for young pitching.
- Adrian Gonzalez is still drawing trade interest, even though he won't be ready to swing a bat until the end of Spring Training.
- Two GMs tell Rosenthal that the Red Sox are open to trading Felix Doubront. One says Boston would part with the left-hander "in a heartbeat" and the other guaranteed the Red Sox will trade him by mid-summer. Red Sox GM Theo Epstein told Rosenthal that the Red Sox "value Felix tremendously" and that the report "couldn't be further from the truth."
- Every young Orioles pitcher "could be in play for the right bat," Rosenthal reports.
- If the Marlins trade Dan Uggla, they would use the savings to sign at least one free agent. John Buck is a target for the Marlins regardless of whether they trade or extend Uggla.
- The A's don't have interest in Mark Reynolds.
- The Rockies are drawing lots of interest in Clint Barmes. They could trade or non-tender the infielder if they aren't able to sign him to a multi-year contract.
- Cody Ross and Javier Lopez are strong candidates to receive extensions from the Giants.