PHOENIX — Milwaukee Brewers owner Mark Attanasio says his team “had an operating loss” in 2019 but that isn’t why the club’s projected payroll has dropped nearly $30 million.
Attanasio says the Brewers are down from last season’s franchise-record $132.6 million payroll because president of baseball operations David Stearns didn’t find any splashy free agent fits, instead preferring to rely on depth, versatility and manager Craig Counsell’s knack for balancing options.
“There’s nothing that David didn’t do this offseason that he wouldn’t have done if we’d have had a different budget number,” Attanasio said. “He’s always free to come to me and say, ‘I want to do ‘fill-in-the-blank.’ I want to acquire ‘fill-in-the-blank.’”
Milwaukee was fifth in the National League last year in attendance at 2,923,333 and has been in the top-six each of the past three seasons, yet it was 11th in the NL in payroll. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins spent less than $100 million among NL clubs, which is roughly where Milwaukee projects for 2020.
The owner denied recent deals for Lorenzo Cain ($80 million, five years), Yasmani Grandal ($18.25 million, one year) and Mike Moustakas ($10 million, one year) forced any kind of correction in the budget this winter, nor did they hinder Stearns from making efforts to retain either Grandal or Moustakas.
Instead, Milwaukee felt good values couldn’t be found in an offseason when other teams ramped up free agent spending.
“There’s nobody we missed this offseason because of price that was on our list,” Attanasio said. “We did want to sign Yasmani Grandal, so maybe one, but I’ve never said no to a player acquisition because of cost.
“Never once because of cost.”
Attanasio pointed to the team’s success during his ownership tenure — the Brewers have the fifth-most victories among NL teams over the past 15 years — as evidence the budget-conscious, but not budget-driven, approach has worked.
“If you’re going to run a baseball team properly, you really have to look at a rolling basis how you’re doing,” Attanasio said. “We had some (losing) years as we were building and we always want to keep our powder dry somewhat for the next opportunity, whether it comes next season or next offseason.
“We weren’t in the playoffs every year, but that’s what we’re trying to do and so we don’t want to dig a hole for ourselves. Franchises get into trouble when they overspend and end up with a mountain of debt and then you go into a long period of rebuild.”
As for this season, Attanasio has faith Counsell can coax another postseason run out of the roster he’s been given.
“We’re trying to create the most favorable matchups we can,” Attanasio said. “We have a brilliant manager that has proven now three years running that he can gain an advantage through matchups.
“He’s being given quite a tool box to work with.”
When the Brewers signed Avisail Garcia, the the plan was to use him primarily in left field in order to leave Christian Yelich in right, where he’s spent most of his two seasons with the Brewers.
That plan changed slightly as Counsell revealed Garcia would instead play primarily in right, where he’s spent most of his career, with Yelich sliding back to left
On paper, adding Garcia to the Brewers’ group of outfielders seemed to be a bit of a head-scratcher but Counsell pointed to two factors that made Garcia a good fit: his age (28) and his eight seasons of producing consistently at the big league level.
“He’s at a spot where I think guys have the chance to put up their best seasons,” Counsell said. “That’s why it fit, even though on first blush it seemed like it didn’t fit. But it does. He’s at the right age, at the right amount of experience to do some special things.”
Said Garcia: “I’m proud to share the outfield with those great players. I’m just happy to be here and to share the outfield with those great players. He’s (Yelich) a great player and a great person. I can’t wait to play with him.”
Be the first to know
Get local news delivered to your inbox!