Braun, Crew push forward together in rebuild

Braun, Crew push forward together in rebuild

MILWAUKEE -- After months of rumors, including a near-trade to the Dodgers in August, was Ryan Braun even a little bit surprised to find himself attending another "Brewers On Deck"?

"No," was Braun's simple answer, and that was that in terms of trade talk.

Braun and the Brewers spent Sunday previewing their 2017 season for a convention center full of fans, who are sticking with the franchise through its rebuild. Braun seems likely to stick, too, at least for the start of 2017.

That would buck a trend for the Brewers, who have traded a slew of All-Star-caliber players since beginning their rebuild in 2015. Carlos Gomez, Jonathan Lucroy and others were all dealt for prospects, leaving Braun, 33 and coming off a .903 OPS, positioned to be moved next.

Braun getting ready for 2017

On Sunday, with Spring Training two weeks away, he was still a Brewer.

"No, I'm not surprised," Brewers owner Mark Attanasio said. "I think there was a lot of momentum [toward a trade] last summer, given the challenges the Dodgers had in hitting left-handed pitching and how strong a season he was having. When those talks heated up, there was a decent chance something could have happened.

"But after it didn't happen, I actually thought if it wasn't going to happen then, it wasn't going to happen. We're delighted he's back."

Braun slashed .305/.365/.538 in 2016, his best season since he finished runner-up to Buster Posey in National League MVP balloting in 2012. Unlike last year, when Braun was coming off back surgery, he has been able to engage in a full offseason of workouts.

All Braun has lacked is sleep. His wife, Larisa, gave birth to a son last September. Greyson Joseph is the couple's second child.

"That second kid is a game-changer," Braun said. "We're going on four or five hours of sleep most nights, but two hours at a time, tops, so that aspect of it has been fun, but challenging. But other than that it's been the healthiest offseason I've had in a long time -- knock on wood. I feel great. I've been able to do my full workouts and running and everything that I've wanted to do and haven't been able to the last couple offseasons. So physically, I feel great."

As for the team?

"Certainly we're headed in the right direction," Braun said. "I think there's a lot of potential impact players, which is what we all hope for. That's what we need."

In their first full year under GM David Stearns, the Brewers believe they found one of those players last season in infielder Jonathan Villar, who led the Major Leagues with 62 stolen bases in his age-25 season. Right-hander Zach Davies posted a 3.97 ERA in 28 starts as a 23-year-old. Shortstop Orlando Arcia made his Major League debut two days before his 22nd birthday.

For Attanasio, 2017 will be mostly about identifying more impact players.

"Probably of the three of us -- me, David and [manager] Craig [Counsell] -- I'm the least focused on wins this year," Attanasio said.

That outlook did not come easy to Attanasio.

"It was especially hard last year," he said. "I remember last year, I was in an interview with [Brewers television play-by-play man] Brian Anderson and I said, 'You know, B.A., sometimes I just shut the TV off.' He said, 'Don't tell everybody that!'

"I would get frustrated. I had to force myself to come to terms with it. It is essential that we do this rebuild correctly, and I think if we get too hung up on wins and losses, we're maybe not doing it [right]."

So the team will offer a long leash, Attanasio said, to the likes of Arcia, who is entering his first full season after struggling at the plate for much of his two-month taste of the Major Leagues last year.

"I want to make sure we do the right things, more so than hang on wins and losses," Attanasio said. "Now, if players are not doing the right thing -- Craig let me know this last night at dinner -- if guys aren't doing the right things, they're going to sit down. He is not on this 'Kumbaya' win/loss thing. If guys are not doing what he feels it takes to win a baseball game, they're not going to play. So I think that's probably a good balance.

"Now, there will be a time I'm very focused on wins and losses. Very focused."

Adam McCalvy has covered the Brewers for MLB.com since 2001. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.