For a professional baseball team, jacking up your payroll is a good way to get a bunch of positive attention. Similarly, dramatically chopping your payroll makes your a laughing stock AND attracts negative attention from litigiously-minded union types.
Slowly allowing your payroll to erode by 20% happens easily and quietly. Trade your best pitcher at the deadline for kids, let expensive relievers walk as free agents, buyout a veteran here and an injured player there, suddenly a team with a $100MM payroll has an $80MM payroll.
The Brewers are a smart team. They pushed their way into the playoffs twice in four years, astutely moving young pieces for players who helped get them to the post-season each time. For the time being, the Brewers will re-tool. Not rebuild, but the days of going “all-in” are over – for now.
Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel wrote about the Brewers payroll shrinking for the first time in seven years under owner Mark Attanasio. As expected, shaving payroll doesn’t sit too well with some fans, those who remain focussed on the short-term because that is their job as fans.
The Brewers have other ideas. After stripping away much of their high-end prospect talent in recent years in pursuit of established pitchers like Shaun Marcum and CC Sabathia, the Brewers enter 2013 with a more organic rotation. Home grown ace Yovani Gallardo leads the way with young pitchers like Mike Fiers, Wily Peralta and Mark Rogers filling out what is now one of the youngest rotations in the game.
“We want to see what our young pitchers can do,” said [Brewers GM Doug] Melvin. “The free-agent market went a little crazy with the cost of pitching. Once we saw that, we decided it made more sense to look at our own pitchers.
“It’s always good to have flexibility to make a trade or pick up a player. Our payroll is reduced this year but we’re fine with where it’s at. We have the flexibility to do something during the season if the situation presents itself.”
This is a team already ahead of the game with cornerstone Ryan Braun in place for, well, ever. They have solid pieces around the infield in Corey Hart (when he returns from injury), Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks (who cannot help but be better in 2013.)
Jean Segura, the key piece acquired in the Zack Greinke trade, is the shortstop of both the present and future. Carlos Gomez just finished his breakout season, though it requires a little squinting to see just how valuable he was. Of course, Jonathan Lucroy is one of the better everyday catchers in the big leagues as well.
Which is to say, the Brewers will be fine. They might not win the NL Central in 2013 but they are not folding up shop and giving in, the front office just looks to be after secure financial footing. This is their time to prepare another window for contention, to change the drapes and clean the sills of all the tiny dead flies before they splash out and address whichever needs the farm system cannot supply.
So long as they don`t have to spend money outfitting their opponents unexpectedly, the Brewers will spend again and be right back in the NL Central mix.