Braun: Brewers' window to win is closing

fantasy_a_braun_fielder_300.jpgPrince Fielder hit his 45th home run on Sunday as the Brewers battled the Cardinals in their 2009 season finale. Fellow slugger Ryan Braun predicts that the team will look a lot different on Opening Day 2010.

“It’s going to be an interesting offseason, that’s for sure,” Braun said on Sunday morning. “It could be a completely different look next year.”

The changes are already afoot. General manager Doug Melvin announced that he didn’t offer 2010 contracts to interim pitching coach Chris Bosio or bullpen coach Stan Kyles, and Melvin will spend much of his offseason trying to fix a pitching staff that posted the second-worst ERA in the National League.

Unlike last year, Melvin has changes to make to the lineup, too. Center fielder Mike Cameron and catcher Jason Kendall are free agents who were just as important to the Brewers off the field as on it, and shortstop J.J. Hardy expects to be traded after a five-year run with the team.

“Look, the reality is that when you’re a mid- or small-market team, you have to take advantage of having guys in that pre-free agency range where you can have them at a relatively affordable rate,” Braun said. “Everybody is starting to make more money. The reality is, Prince will probably only be here one or two more years.

“It’s a small window for us to win. We’re not the Yankees or the Red Sox, where you can have a $200 million payroll. … You have to take advantage of that window and win while guys are affordable. That’s why you have to go for it, every chance you get. You go all-in, that’s my opinion. The goal shouldn’t be to make the playoffs, it should be to win the World Series. You saw how much getting to the playoffs meant to the City of Milwaukee [in 2008] and I can only imagine what it would be like to win a World Series.

“To me, that has to be the goal, and the reality is they have to go for it in the next year or two, because at that point everybody will be free agents and too expensive to keep.”

Of the Brewers’ disappointing 2009 season, Braun said, “We’d like to think of it as an aberration. We’re disappointed we didn’t get back to the postseason. Ultimately, that was our goal. We wanted to build on last year and we recognized that it was going to be difficult without CC [Sabathia] and Ben Sheets, but we thought we had the nucleus of last year’s team back and we had that opportunity. We fell short.”

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