Milwaukee Brewers

Ryan Braun now open to playing in 2021 due to shortened season

It looked like 2020 would be Ryan Braun’s final season, but a short season has altered his thoughts.

Back in January at a fan event, Ryan Braun hinted that 2020 would be his final season. But the circumstances have changed greatly since then, and according to Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the Milwaukee Brewers veteran outfielder is rethinking his plans.

“I would say at this point, I’m more likely to play another year than I think I would have been,” he said.

A 60-game 2020 season will be a unique sprint, as players opt out due to concerns about COVID-19. It has invited the idea we’ve seen the last of older players like Ryan Zimmerman, who has opted not to play this season and has not decided if he’ll play in 2021. But Braun sees a unique and short season as an opportunity.

“To start with, we’ll only play 60 games instead of 162 games, so obviously at this age and where I’m at in my career, it’s very appealing to me to have the option to DH for a decent percentage of my at-bats,” he said. “And this season will be an experience like we’ve never experienced before.”

With the universal DH coming this season, and perhaps here to stay, Braun is just the type of player it will benefit. He has battled nagging injuries in recent years, and in 2019 he played the most games he’s played in since his NL MVP runner-up campaign in 2012. He played some first base in 2018, and he could see some time there this year with the Brewers signing of Avisail Garcia and the move of Christian Yelich to left field.

Braun was a productive hitter last year, as he posted a .285/.343/.505 slash-line with 22 home runs, 75 RBI, 31 doubles and 11 stolen bases (.849 OPS, 116 OPS+). So writing his name in the lineup, without having to have him play defense, is an ideal scenario for Brewers manager Craig Counsell.

Braun has a $15 million mutual option for 2021, with a $4 million buyout. The Brewers surely don’t want to pay him $15 million next year, but the idea of bringing him back cheaper would probably be on the radar for both sides. If he’s not back in Milwaukee in 2021, it’s anyone guess where Braun might land and the American League may be the better fit.

Braun enters the truncated 2020 MLB season with 344 career home runs. So he would have needed the fullest complement of the next two seasons to have any chance at getting to 400. But on the idea the DH sticks in both leagues, and if he wants to play in 2022 (and can find an opportunity), Braun now has a better than zero percent chance at getting to 400 home runs.

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