The Brewers announced Thursday afternoon that they’ve signed Ryan Braun through the 2020 season, a move the club touted as the “longest commitment to a player in franchise history.” Braun was already signed through the 2015 season by virtue of an 8-year, $45 million deal he signed in May 2008. Ken Rosenthal was the first to report the new terms — $105 million and 5 years tacked onto the end of the current deal.
An average annual value of $21 million seems like a tough pill for the Brewers to swallow, but the breakdown as reported by Rosenthal, Buster Olney, and others looks to be much more club-friendly: Braun will make $19 million a year from 2016-2018, $18 million in 2019, and $16 million in 2020. The mutual option for 2021 could be as much as $20 million, but there is a $4 million buyout. Braun will also get a $10 million signing bonus, and apparently some deferred money. If there is no-trade language involved in the deal, my guess is that it will only protect him until he gets his 10-and-5 rights.
So, Braun’s overall salary breakdown through 2020 looks like this:
2011: $4 million, 2012: $6 million, 2013: $8.5 million, 2014: $10 million, 2015: $12 million, 2016: $19 million, 2017: $19 million, 2018: $19 million, 2019: $18 million, 2020: $16 million.
That’s still a ton of money for a team in baseball’s smallest market to commit to one player, but as salaries continue to rise, it’s possible the Brewers could actually be getting another bargain — especially if Braun continues to develop into one of the best right-handed hitters in baseball.
There’s going to be risk anytime you give a player a contract that takes him through his age 36/37 season, but with baseball’s economic system the way it is, it’s a risk small-market clubs have to take. Braun at least seems like a better bet than most to make it through the contract while still being a productive player — he doesn’t get complacent, he works harder than anyone during the offseason, he’s managed to stay healthy to this point, and there’s no weight concerns for the future like there are with Prince Fielder.
Speaking of Fielder, this deal is going to prompt many questions about his future. In reality, all this move does is signal to the rest of the league what we who follow the Brewers already know — Prince is a goner. The Brewers offered him a very similar deal a year or two ago, and he declined. I imagine this deal also looks similar to the one the Brewers offered CC Sabathia to stay. Braun was willing to take a deal others weren’t, and that won’t be lost on most fans.
Regardless of how you feel about Braun’s personality, his play, or this contract, we can all agree on one thing: any time a small-market club can keep its best player through what looks like the rest of his career, it’s a very good thing for baseball.
UPDATE: Over at the Brewerfan.net forums, poster sbrylski06 (@sbrylski on Twitter) was able to articulate the point on inflation I had mentioned earlier. If you consider a standard 5% rate of inflation, Braun’s extension is for something like $71.3 million present-day dollars. His breakdown:
5% inflation seems like a safe bet — baseball is continuing to make money hand over fist, and as we saw this past winter, teams are starting to spend like drunken sailors again. There’s still a lot of uncertainty about how the deal will look by the time it kicks in five years from now, but it seems highly unlikely that salaries will plateau or decrease for the duration of the contract. Factor in the money the club will make off the field by keeping Braun in town, and I don’t see how this deal could be seen as an automatic loss. At worst, it’s unnecessary, but it’s way too soon to already say it’s a bad deal.