Ryan Braun confident in abilities heading into 2014

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At the same time the Brewers were finalizing their deal with starter Matt Garza, outfielder Ryan Braun was making the rounds with the media and fans at the “Brewers on Deck” event at the Wisconsin Center earlier today. He was asked about a variety of topics, but mostly about his use of performance-enhancing drugs. Braun, of course, had his 2013 season was cut short in late July when he accepted a 65-game suspension for his involvement with Biogenesis. As Todd Rosiak of the Journal Sentinel details, Braun was apologetic, even mentioning that he had made personal phone calls to suite owners and season ticket holders.

Braun is also confident in his abilities in 2014 and beyond:

If Braun is unsure whether he’ll be able to put up numbers without the ‘extra edge’ he had previously, as one questioner put it, he certainly isn’t letting on.

“I think I’ll be better than I’ve ever been,” he said. “Very confident in that.”

Prior to his suspension last season, Braun had been dealing with some neck problems and a nerve injury in his right hand, resulting in a month-long DL stint. The hand injury sapped him of his power. In his final 31 games, between May 11 and July 21, Braun hit just one home run.

Braun turned 30 years old in November and he still has $24 million in salary remaining between 2014-15 before his five-year, $105 million extension kicks in. Obviously, the Brewers have a lot invested in Braun’s ability to both stay productive and out of trouble.

Padres may have more interest in Dallas Keuchel than Bryce Harper

Dallas Keuchel
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An interesting tidbit today from The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, who noted that ongoing talks between agent Scott Boras and the Padres have focused more on starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel than slugger Bryce Harper. Earlier this week, there were conflicting reports on the Padres’ level of interest in Harper — MLB Network’s Jon Heyman heard the club had not ruled out another big signing after getting Manny Machado, while Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune talked to multiple sources who believed otherwise — but any agreement between the two is looking unlikelier by the day.

As for Keuchel, Rosenthal cautions that a potential deal is still a “longshot,” especially as the team has other, cheaper options in mind. The 31-year-old southpaw turned down a qualifying offer from the Astros last year and is likely angling for something north of the five-year, $90 million contract extension he rejected from the club in 2016. He’s coming off of another solid performance in Houston, where he went 12-11 in 34 starts with a 3.74 ERA, 2.6 BB/9, 6.7 SO/9, and 3.6 fWAR through 204 2/3 innings in 2018.

While Keuchel has failed to garner substantial interest around the league this offseason, Heyman points out that the Phillies are looking to establish themselves as frontrunners for the lefty — and they’re far less likely to have hang-ups about his asking price, too.