Braun, Brewers may be near end
Dodgers could be landing spot
He walked into the Milwaukee Brewers’ lives 11 years ago, brought them glory with two playoff berths and caused them shame with a drug suspension. Now the final days are coming.
Ryan Braun, a six-time All-Star outfielder who has hit the most home runs in franchise history, has 2½ weeks left until the Brewers’ season ends.
When he takes off his Brewers uniform Oct. 2 after the final game in Denver against the Colorado Rockies, it likely will be for the final time.
In 2017, Braun likely will don the traditional blue and white colors of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
And the next uniform embattled Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig might put on? The blue and gold colors of the Brewers.
Braun and Puig were about 20 minutes from being traded for each other two weeks ago, according to several executives with direct knowledge of the talks, but the teams ran out of time at the Aug. 31 trade deadline. The executives spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
Braun was heading to the Dodgers, who would pay the $76 million left on his contract, for Puig, injured veteran pitcher Brandon McCarthy and prospects.
Negotiations lasted all the way to the 11:59 p.m. ET waivers trade deadline Aug. 31. Officials vowed to revisit the talks in the offseason.
The clubs even worked out the major stumbling blocks of the deal so that it would have been a virtual money wash this season. McCarthy and Puig are earning a combined $16.5 million while Braun is being paid $19 million.
The deal was so close, with just one last prospect being negotiated, that Braun was advised to stay around until the deadline expired. Several of his teammates even stayed with him in the clubhouse, prepared to say their goodbyes.
Puig was in Oklahoma City, where he had been demoted and where his team’s game against Memphis was rained out.
When midnight struck, Braun was still a Brewer, Puig would soon be packing for a return trip to the big leagues and McCarthy was preparing for his next rehab start.
“I think it would be inappropriate for me to get into any detail about any of that stuff,” Braun told USA TODAY Sports. “Obviously, I live in Los Angeles in the offseason. I grew up a Dodger fan. When
“If I get traded, it’s got to be a team that wants to win now and where I really want to go.” Brewers slugger Ryan Braun
those conversations started, I think it was an interesting position for me to be in.
“But I love Milwaukee. I’m happy being a Brewer. And if those conversations were to continue, we’ll see where they lead.”
The Brewers, in the middle of their rebuilding plans, realize the prospects they receive in return for Braun could accelerate their plan, perhaps allowing them to contend by 2018, a year earlier than expected.
Certainly, as the Brewers discovered during their trade talks this summer, Braun has re-established his trade value since his season-ending 65-game performance-enhancing drug suspension in 2013. He was one of 14 players suspended for involvement with the Biogenesis Clinic in South Florida.
Braun, 32, who had back surgery after last season, is having his best year since 2012, when he was second in MVP balloting, after winning the 2011 award. He entered Tuesday hitting .310 with 27 homers, 82 RBI and a .916 on-base plus-slugging percentage, which was eighth in the National League.
The Atlanta Braves, also rebuilding, were so enamored with Braun that they also worked on a trade to acquire him this summer, according to officials with direct knowledge of the talks, only to be rebuffed when Braun exercised his no-trade provision.
“I think whenever you have a player producing at this level and (who) has produced in the past, he will generate interest,” said Brewers general manager David Stearns, speaking generally. “So it wasn’t all that surprising to me. He’s a very good player, providing very consistent high-level offensive production, and teams out there naturally have interest in that.”
Braun has a blanket no-trade provision to all but six teams: the Dodgers, Los Angeles Angels, San Francisco Giants, San Diego Padres, Arizona Diamondbacks and Miami Marlins. All are within an hour drive or flight from his Malibu, Calif., home, with the exception of Miami, where he attended the University of Miami.
The Giants, who had trade talks with the Brewers about Braun this summer, could revisit things, considering outfielder Angel Pagan is a free agent. The Angels could certainly use another power hitter to go with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. And, there are the Dodgers, who will have more than $20 million coming off the books, with pitcher Brett Anderson’s expiring contract and Bronson Arroyo’s buyout, and just one more year of paying $21 million to released outfielder Carl Crawford.
It just makes too much sense for Braun not to be a Dodger, particularly considering that in May 2017 he will have complete no-trade rights after he accrues 10 years of service time.
Puig has been on his best behavior and has three home runs since his recall, but the Dodgers are expected to unload him. Perhaps if nothing else, his trade value will be a bit higher, considering his performance this month.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are in the odd position of gleaning stretch-drive and playoff contributions from a player likely to be dealt this winter.
“Yasiel has continued to grow as a baseball player, as a teammate, as a man,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters Monday after their road victory against the New York Yankees.
Andrew Friedman, the Dodgers president of baseball operations, declined to talk about any of their trade talks involving Puig. Stearns said a decision regarding Braun doesn’t have to necessarily be determined by May.
“I don’t know if there’s a firm timeline for any decision,” Stearns said. “We are very open with Ryan, and he’s open with us. As long as the lines of communication remain productive and there’s a good level of trust back and forth, there’s no definitive timeline to any of this.
“My job is to make the best decision for the franchise. We would only move a player of Ryan’s caliber if we were getting significant talent back.”
Certainly, Braun has no objection to spending the rest of his career in Milwaukee. He’s comfortable playing in the Midwest but, of course, would be a whole lot more comfortable sleeping in his own bed at home, where his kids could stay year-round.
“I love Milwaukee; my family loves Milwaukee,” he said. “And we love getting involved in the community. I’m completely at peace if we do end up staying here. But at the same time, I’m realistic where we are as a team. I’ve had honest conversations with my GM, our ownership group and (manager) Craig Counsell when we think we’ll be competitive again. Certainly, I think it’s a conversation we’ll continue to have and assess what offers come in.
“I’m completely content with staying in Milwaukee, but it also makes sense for them to consider alternatives because of where we’re at as an organization.”
No matter what transpires, now that he’s healthy, Braun is confident that someone will be benefiting from his talents. He still runs the bases well and plays solid defense, and the power is still there, as evidenced when he hit a gamewinning 419-foot homer against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.
Braun, who would provide the perfect right-handed bat to help balance the Dodgers lineup, refuses to stress over his fate but knows that ultimately he’ll end up in a desirable locale.
“If I get traded,” Braun said, “it’s got to be a team that wants to win now and where I really want to go.
“Athletically, I don’t think I’ve lost a thing. I feel I still have some great years left in me.”
He’s going to look good in Dodgers blue.
Ryan Braun was nearly dealt to the Dodgers two weeks ago.
If the Brewers land Yasiel Puig, above, and prospects for Ryan Braun, the team might accelerate the timeline on its rebuild.