MILWAUKEE -- Ryan Braun isn’t ready to rule out continuing his career, but for now he is happy at home with his family.
“I’m continuing to work out and stay in shape, but I’m not currently interested in playing,” Braun said in a text message to MLB.com. “I am enjoying my family and focused on other business interests for now but appreciate the interest I’ve received and will continue to regularly stay in touch with the Brewers.”
Braun, 37, has been a free agent since the club declined its half of his mutual option for 2021 and paid a $4 million buyout instead.
The Brewers and Braun intended all along to allow as much time as he needed to decide whether to pursue continuing his career. Among the many factors were family considerations (wife Larisa gave birth to the couple’s third child last May), baseball considerations (at the moment it looks like there won’t be a designated hitter in the National League in 2021) and the trajectory of the coronavirus pandemic.
At the moment, Spring Training is slated to start on time. The Brewers’ first full-squad workout is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Drafted fifth overall in the star-studded 2005 MLB Draft, Braun won the 2007 NL Rookie of the Year Award, the 2011 NL MVP Award and five Silver Slugger Awards while making six All-Star teams and hitting a franchise-record 352 regular-season home runs in his first 13 years in the big leagues. He was suspended in '13 for using performance-enhancing drugs in a previous season, as was revealed in the Biogenesis investigation. Braun apologized and returned in ’14 aiming to do what he could to atone and was an All-Star for the sixth time in '15, the same year Braun broke Robin Yount’s franchise home run record.
Braun has hit some of the most memorable home runs in Brewers history, including go-ahead homers in postseason-clinching victories in 2008, ’11 and ’19. He posted an OPS+ above league average (100) during every year of his career to date, and a wRC+ better than average in every year but '20, when Braun posted a 99 wRC+ in 141 plate appearances while splitting time between right field and DH.
While Braun indicated he hasn’t made a final decision on retirement, he was open throughout 2020 that it was a possibility. In the team’s final home game against the Royals, Braun tallied two hits including an infield single in his final at-bat and raised his right index finger in the air, saying later, “That was a great way to end it.”
The Brewers reached the postseason for the third straight year, but Braun was hobbled at the end. He aggravated a core muscle injury during the final regular season series in St. Louis and had to exit Game 1 of the NL Wild Card Series at Dodger Stadium after banging into the right field wall. Braun was unable to play Game 2, a 3-0 loss that ended the Brewers’ season.
“Who knows if this was the last one? He hasn’t officially said he’s done, and that’s for him and his family to decide,” said Christian Yelich, who became one of Braun’s best friends and took counsel from Braun before deciding to sign a club-record contract extension last spring. “And if he is done, he can hang his hat on having a great career.
“As a kid, you dream of playing in the big leagues and having the kind of career that he had. I think a very small percentage of people get to experience that -- even if you’re able to play in the big leagues. It’s really hard to stay around for 14-15 years, do it all with one organization. So, if it is the end for him, hat’s off. He’s had an unbelievable career, and he should be extremely proud of it. We’ll miss him around here.”