Braun, Brew­ers may be near end

Dodgers could be land­ing spot

USA TODAY US Edition - - SPORTS - FOL­LOW MLB COLUM­NIST BOB NIGHT­EN­GALE @BNight­en­gale for anal­y­sis and break­ing news from the di­a­mond.

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.

BENNY SIEU, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

Ryan Braun was nearly dealt to the Dodgers two weeks ago.

Bob Night­en­gale bnighten@us­ato­day.com USA TO­DAY Sports

BRAD PENNER, USA TO­DAY SPORTS

If the Brew­ers land Yasiel Puig, above, and prospects for Ryan Braun, the team might ac­cel­er­ate the time­line on its re­build.

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