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Potential Destinations for Ryan Braun

Ryan Braun

Sometimes, whether you like it or not, the writing on the wall is the best option. Like when you haven’t cleaned the shower in months and you are wondering if that yellowish hue is the original color of the bathtub surface or if it something more sinister. For Major League Baseball players, considering when to hang up the spikes can be a difficult decision. The game you have loved and played since childhood has suddenly become too tough — whether it be due to health issues or declining performance. Ryan Braun is at that point. The Milwaukee Brewers‘ slugging outfielder is a free agent for the first time in his career and it comes after he just turned 37 in late November.

Fast Start

When Ryan Braun was good, he was among the elite hitters in MLB. In his first seven seasons in the majors, Braun hit .313 and averaged 34 homers and 107 RBIs. He won the National League Rookie of the Year award in 2007 and NL MVP in 2011.

The offseason following his MVP year was tumultuous. It was reported in December of that year that Braun had failed a test for performance-enhancing drugs. But Braun became the first player to successfully appeal a potential suspension. However, it left a cloud over his performance.

In 2012, Braun arguably had a better season than 2011 but finished second in the NL MVP voting. More controversy popped up in spring training for the 2013 season when Braun was one of several players linked to PEDs through the Biogenesis Clinic in Miami.

Starting to Slide

Injuries and a season-ending 65-game suspension as a result of the Biogenesis probe limited Braun to 61 games in 2013 and marked the beginning of his decline. From 2013 to 2019, Braun hit .280 and averaged 20 homers and 69 RBIs while playing in 121 games a season.

The pandemic-shortened 2020 season saw Braun play in 39 of 60 games, hitting .233 with eight homers and 26 RBIs. It marked the final year of a five-year, $105 million contract extension that Braun signed during the 2011 season and didn’t kick in until 2016. That deal came with an option for 2021, which would have paid Braun $15 million. But the Brewers chose to buy him out for $4 million, making him a free agent.

All of that leaves Ryan Braun in a precarious position entering this offseason. His age and injury history, mainly a cranky back, make him a risky proposition if he decides to play in 2021.

Three Potential Destinations for Ryan Braun

Milwaukee Brewers

Before the pandemic hit, Braun was expected to be an expensive platoon player for the Brewers in 2020. With Christian Yelich in left field, Lorenzo Cain in centerfield, and newly signed Avisail Garcia in right field, Braun was going to see action in right and first base. He had only played 18 games (12 starts) at first in his first 13 seasons.

But when Cain opted out early once the season began, Braun saw most of his action in right and designated hitter, which was adopted for 2020 due to the pandemic.

The Brewers are already on the hook for $4 million for Braun in 2021, but it is unknown how much Braun might seek for a final season in Milwaukee. Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns said Braun was going to take his time making his decision on 2021.

As the roster stands now, it would again be as a platoon outfielder-first baseman. If the DH returns for 2021, that would make it more enticing for both sides.

Los Angeles Dodgers

OK, so this admittedly a long shot. The defending World Series champion Dodgers do not have a need for a player like Braun.

But with third baseman Justin Turner, utility player Kiké Hernandez and outfielder Joc Pederson free agents who could land elsewhere, Braun would love to play out his last year or two near his Southern California home. The prospect would be more attractive to the Dodgers if the DH stays.

Of course, Dodgers fans might not be too happy about going after Braun considering they feel the Brewers slugger stole the 2011 MVP award from Matt Kemp.


Considering every team’s budget constraints following all of the lost revenue in 2020 due to the pandemic, this is Ryan Braun’s most likely option.

Braun’s brittle back has proved to be a risk health-wise. Not only did he miss one-third of the 2020 season, mainly due to injury, but he left early in the first game of the NL wild-card series against the Dodgers when he banged into the right-field wall. He didn’t play in Game 2.

Final Thoughts

There is no doubt of Braun’s popularity among Brewers fans. But there is also no doubt that Braun is a shell of his former self.

Sure, Braun comes up with the occasional clutch hit that reminds everyone of his offensive skills. His inability to remain healthy has reduced his overall value.

Braun knew before the pandemic hit that 2020 might be his last season. He missed the interaction with fans at Miller Park. With his third child born in June and a diminished market for his talents, the best option for Braun’s legacy would be retirement.

But will he read that writing on the wall or will his skills push him to one more season?

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