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04/21/11 7:37 PM ET
Braun, Brewers sign extension through 2020
Deal, worth $105 million, added on to pact that had five years to go
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun's casual conversation with his agent turned into a conversation between the agent and the Brewers' owner in Los Angeles, which turned into a conversation between the agent and the general manager in Phoenix, which turned into a conversation between the owner and GM. The talk all culminated on Thursday, when Braun and the Brewers came together on a stunning five-year contract extension that guarantees the All-Star outfielder $145.5 million from the moment he signed his name in the Miller Park clubhouse through the end of 2020. Braun, 27, was already signed through 2015, but the new extension pays an additional $105 million from 2016-20, with a mutual option for '21. It puts him in position to be Milwaukee's next Robin Yount, the Hall of Famer who played all 20 seasons in a Brewers uniform. And it all started, the Brewers say, with a casual chat initiated by Braun himself. "The first thing you say is, 'Wow, really?'" principal owner Mark Attanasio said. "Especially with a player of his stature. It's a very big idea." So the Brewers listened. "When a player steps forward and wants to do it, you have to listen," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "You're probably caught off guard a little bit to hear it come from a player, because a lot of times it doesn't happen." According to a baseball source, the extension calls for a $10 million signing bonus. Braun will earn $19 million in each season from 2016-18, $18 million in '19 and $16 million in '20, and the '21 mutual option is 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 source said. The $21 million average annual value of the extension is second highest for an outfielder, after Manny Ramirez's two-year deal, $45 million deal with Dodgers. Braun and Colorado's Troy Tulowitzki are the only Major League players signed through 2020. The only other players signed through '18 are Joe Mauer of the Twins and Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox. The new contract was tacked onto the eight-year, $45 million contract that Braun signed on May 15, 2008. It was, and remains, a record contract for a player with less than one year of Major League service. "That first deal was unprecedented, a record-breaking deal, and this new one is a commitment," said Braun's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports. "We basically view it as a partnership between Ryan and the organization moving forward, that both sides were willing to commit themselves probably through Ryan's entire career. "Obviously, the commitment on the club's part is huge. But it's also a commitment on Ryan's part, to want to stay in the city of Milwaukee and play here possibly through the end of his career." Melvin put it like this: "I always say when young players sign, they take a bite out of the apple and then they get another bite. His second bite's a lot bigger." Balelo declined to discuss details of the deferrals, but said they were key to the deal from both sides. "Just know that we got creative," Balelo said. "It was very important for Ryan and very important to the organization that we stay competitive. Ryan wanted to be in Milwaukee the rest of his career, but he also is dedicated to winning." "We didn't have to do this, and he didn't have to do this," Melvin said. "I think it shows the trust in the relationship." If Braun is with the Brewers through his option year, he will have played 15 seasons in a Brewers uniform. Yount played all 20 of his Hall of Fame seasons for the Brewers, and is in an increasingly small group of players to stay in one city for their full careers. Braun invoked some of the players he idolized growing up, including Cal Ripken Jr. of the Orioles and Tony Gwynn Jr. of the Padres, and contemporaries Derek Jeter of the Yankees and Chipper Jones of the Braves, all infielders who wore only one uniform. "That's something that was a huge factor in me making the decision to stay here," Braun said. "You don't see that happen too often in sports anymore -- especially baseball. ... Obviously Robin was incredible and spent his entire career here. Tony Gwynn spent his entire career in San Diego, Cal Ripken in Baltimore. Those are all guys that I've admired. It's incredible for me to hopefully have an opportunity one day to say, 'I spent my whole career here in Milwaukee,' and it's something I truly want to do." Braun is one of just five players in Major League Baseball history to hit 125 homers and post a .300 batting average over the first four seasons of his career. The others are Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Chuck Klein and Ted Williams, and contemporary Albert Pujols. Braun has reached safely in each of the Brewers' first 18 games this season, and he will enter Friday's series-opener against the Astros batting .359 with five home runs and 12 RBIs. "I think these first 18 games are the best baseball that I've played in my career, and I really believe that's a sign of things to come," Braun said. "I believe that I'll continue to get better. I've always taken pride in my work ethic and my aptitude, my ability to make adjustments and to learn from everything that I've gone through. The goal is to continue to get better, continue to stay healthy, continue to contribute to winning teams. "Ultimately I really believe I have a chance to become a much better player than I've been over the first four years of my career." More details on the historic nature of Braun's deal: It marks the first time first time a player with five years left on his current contract agreed to an extension (Tulowitzki had three years plus an option remaining when he re-upped with the Rockies). It is also believed to be only the sixth time a player has signed a contract that guaranteed him 10 or more years of future salary (Dave Winfield, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Todd Helton and Tulowitzki are the others). Only seven players are signed through age 36 and have spent their entire career with their original professional organization: Braun, Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, Ryan Howard, Chipper Jones and Helton. It is one of nine contracts for a position player with a total value of at least $100 million and an average annual value of at least $20 million (Rodriguez twice, Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Mauer, Ramirez, Mark Teixeira and Howard). Braun is 27, and only two other players 27 or younger signed a contract with an AAV of $20 million or more: Rodriguez in 2001 and Mauer in '11. It's the largest deal in Brewers history by total and AAV (Prince Fielder signed a $15.5 million deal for 2011). Braun's agency has done well for itself in the past year and a half. In the last 16-plus months, seven players have signed a deal with an AAV of $20 million or more, and three of those were negotiated by CAA Sports (also Howard and Roy Halladay).