Big League Stew - MLB

For the next five seasons, Ryan Braun(notes) will continue being one of the best bargains in major league baseball.

Only now he'll do so with the promise of a huge payday that awaits him in 2015.

On Thursday afternoon, the Milwaukee Brewers and their prized left fielder announced a jump-the-gun contract extension worth a whopping $105 million over five years. The deal will guarantee Braun's spot as the franchise cornerstone at Miller Park through 2020 and will pay him more per season than any outfielder in baseball history not named Manny Ramirez(notes). It includes a $10 million signing bonus.

From JS Online:  

The five years, which run from 2016-2020, are worth $105 million. There is a $10 million signing bonus, with salaries of $19 million in 2016, 2017 and 2018, $18 million in 2019 and $16 million in 2020. There is a mutual option in 2021 worth up to $20 million with a $4 million buyout. It includes a no-trade provision and Braun agreed to defer some salary to help keep the team competitive.

The annual yearly value of $21 million is second-highest ever for an outfielder (after Manny Ramirez's last two-year deal with Dodgers). That's in addition to the $45 million, eight-year deal he signed in  May 2008 — still the largest deal ever (total and AAV) signed by a  player with less than one year of service time.

MLB.com's Adam McCalvy reports that deferred compensation was a key part of the deal, so Braun will have to wait even longer before collecting all of this massive paycheck. But it's obviously still an awesome contract for a player who has already proven that he enjoys the security gained by trading the possibility of future free agency for what still amounts to trucks full of guaranteed money in the here and now.

Indeed, other than maybe Evan Longoria(notes), Ryan Braun might be the most security-seeking star in the league. Tom Haudricourt reports that it's the first time a player with five years left on his deal has agreed to a contract extension.

From the Brewers' standpoint, Braun is definitely a star they want to keep around as Miller Park continues to attract around 3 million fans per year. His offensive numbers through his first four years have been stellar and he's not the type of player a small market team can afford to stray closer toward free agency. What you might risk from paying him that much in the last few years of his deal is saved by eliminating the risk of competition allowing Braun to extract even more years at an older age (ie: Jayson Werth(notes) getting a seven-year, $126 million deal from the Nationals at age 31).

Of course, it's worth debating if the Brewers could have waited a year or two to see if Braun suffers a big injury or an unexpected drop in production, but I suppose that's what insurance policies are for. (You have looked into one of those, right, Mark Attanasio?)

Anyway, between this and the recent deals struck with Corey Hart(notes), Rickie Weeks(notes) and Yovani Gallardo(notes), the Brewers still have a nice core going forth.

Of course, the big elephant in the room — and I use that in its intended cliche form —remains Prince Fielder(notes), who is still set to become a free agent with Scott Boras this winter. Whether or not this Braun deal indicates Milwaukee's continued willingness to spend with the profits of a packed ballpark or a money spigot run dry with nothing left for Fielder remains to be seen.

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