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Brewers following "The Tulo Way"

4/23/2011

Ryan Braun
BraunOn Thursday the Milwaukee Brewers announced they have signed franchise cornerstone outfielder Ryan Braun to a five-year, $105 million extension. While the terms of the deal -- $21 million per season -- seem quite reasonable given the spending we saw this offseason, a distinction is important: this is an extension, not a new contract. Braun was already under contract through the 2015 season -- a full five seasons into the future.

The Brewers decided that this was the best approach for them -- extending Braun before he even sniffed the free-agent market. This decision and contract are remarkably similar to what the Colorado Rockies and Troy Tulowitzki did this past offseason. At the time, Tulowitzki was locked up through the 2014 season (assuming the Rockies exercised the club option), yet the team decided to extend the player anyway.

Troy Tulowitzki vs. Ryan Braun
Contract Breakdown

Perhaps this is a reflection of small-market teams feeling that it’s better for them to lock up these players well in advance to essentially ensure they remain with the franchise for life. Even if it means both overpaying on the back end and exposing the team to massive risk in the player’s decline phase.

As you can see to the right, the Braun and Tulowitzki contracts are remarkably similar. Both players are signed through 2020 with club options for 2021 and both will make around $15 million per season. On the field, the two players have very similar career wins above replacement numbers and had similar number of years left on their previous deals when they were ripped up.

It will be interesting to see if this trend continues with some other young stars. Players with deals like Braun and Tulowitzki's original contracts like Evan Longoria, Justin Upton and Hanley Ramirez are locked up well into the future. But the recent moves of the Rockies and Brewers show that it’s never too early to commit long term (very long term) to your star players.