DAN: Real Brains in Re-Signing Braun
By Dan O'Donnell
With a stroke of the pen as mighty as any stroke of his bat this season, Ryan Braun may have signaled the start of a new era of Brewers baseball. By signing him to an 8 year, $45 million contract, Mark Attanasio ensured that he wouldn't join Paul Molitor, Gary Sheffield, Chris Bosio, B.J. Surhoff, Dante Bichette and a seemingly endless list of talented ballplayers whom the Brewers simply wouldn't pay to keep.
"It's a commitment I was ready to make to the city of Milwaukee," Braun said in his press conference. Finally, the city of Milwaukee is ready to commit to a player of his caliber. When former Cubs manager Lee Elia blew up at the "nickel-dimers" in Chicago, it was obvious he had never met the Brewers' previous ownership group, who never met a player they didn't let walk.
That era is now definitively over, as Braun's signing sends a serious signal to the other 24 guys in the clubhouse that big play will get you big pay--not traded to the Yankees for three minor leaguers.
There is, however, just one guy in the clubhouse who needs that reinforcement. Prince Fielder and his agent decided to break off negotiations on their own big money deal until the end of the season. That's fine, except that Fielder has been openly unhappy with his current deal since Spring Training and Braun's new contract will likely make him even greener with envy.
In the opinion of this humble blogger (who's making about 0.0075% of what Prince is likely to), the Brewers need to reassure Prince that he will get a hefty raise after the season and Prince needs to reassure the Brewers that he's worth it. For every Gary Sheffield the old regime let go, there was a Jeffrey Hammonds or Ben McDonald that they foolishly signed to big contracts.
Obviously, Prince's talent is light years beyond theirs, but his slow start (.255, 5 HR, 23 RBI) isn't justifiying his unhappiness with his current deal and, in fact, may be a reason for it.
And once they get Fielder's deal done, the Brewers must turn their attention to new contracts for Corey Hart, J.J. Hardy, Yovani Gallardo, and a seemingly endless list of promising young talent. If this is really a new era for Brewers ownership that really will open its pocketbook to keep homegrown talent, then the future looks bright--even if today's game sure didn't.