Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio recently sat down for a Q&A with play-by-play announcer Brian Anderson and fans were able to chime in with some questions as well. Fans have been concerned about the direction of the team after missing the playoffs this year and Attanasio’s answers did little to quell those concerns.
First and foremost, transparency is great. Mark Attanasio doesn’t have to do these types of interviews with Brian Anderson or anyone else or take any questions from fans. Several teams have owners and ownership groups that operate in complete silence, rarely if ever taking any questions from media if not absolutely necessary, let alone from fans.
Fans may not like Attanasio’s answers. More often than not, most fans don’t like his answers. That’s understandable, but it is good to see that Attanasio is at least taking questions and giving his answers to them, even if they’re not the answers everybody wants to hear. With that said, let’s dive in.
Brewers owner Mark Attanasio is non-committal about offseason activity and making the payroll jumps necessary to compete for a World Series in fan Q&A.
When asked about which minor leaguers might be making the roster in 2023 (i.e. Sal Frelick, Brice Turang, Joey Wiemer, etc.), Attanasio offered up that the Brewers “might be very active this winter” which could lead to some spots opening up or some guys being blocked at certain positions.
“Might be” is the operative phrase here. The Brewers might be active. That means they also might not be active. They might look to improve the team externally, they might just keep it internal. They either don’t know or they aren’t telling us. Now it’s understandable that Attanasio wouldn’t name specific minor leaguers in that answer, just because you don’t want to get a young guy’s hopes up like that if it doesn’t come to pass, but the “might be active” part is bothersome.
Not long ago, Phillies owner John Middleton declared the team was going to spend “stupid amounts of money” to improve their team. They went and, among other players, signed Bryce Harper who has now carried them to the World Series. A lot of owners make declarative statements about improving their team and increasing spending to build a World Series roster. Mark Attanasio isn’t doing that here.
Granted, Attanasio tries to just let the baseball ops guys do their jobs, so he isn’t going to mandate a certain amount of activity or to make moves just for the sake of making moves. He’s tried to meddle with the front office in the past and push for certain guys and it’s backfired, so he doesn’t do it anymore, which is good. Still, instead of a wishy-washy ‘oh we might do stuff, we might not, we’ll see”, it’d be nicer to see that there’s a clear plan and a clear direction. He doesn’t have to give details on the plan, but just knowing there is one would alleviate some concerns.
Then Attanasio was asked about those financial resources and if they had enough to build a stronger playoff contender with the payroll space for the whole core. Christian Yelich, Freddy Peralta, and Aaron Ashby are already signed to contract extensions, but several other key players have their future still undecided.
So Attanasio isn’t going to say the Brewers have a constraint on their payroll. But in the next breath, he says they’re facing an “economic reality”.
That’s like saying your leg isn’t broken, it’s fractured.
It’s the same thing. There’s a constraint. He won’t say the word constraint specifically, but it’s a constraint all the same. He goes on to talk about payrolls and making money and losing money and reaching an abyss. The bottom line is, there is no big increase in payroll spending coming to the Brewers. It might jump a little bit, but only in very tiny increments.
Attanasio also added they’re committed to “keeping as many guys as we can keep” referencing back to the rest of the core the fan was asking about. While this may sound nice at first glance, the operative phrase here is “as we can keep”.
There’s a chance they could feel they can’t keep any more of the guys than they’ve already signed. Burnes, Woodruff, and Adames would be in line for likely nine figure extensions each. Do they feel they “can keep” all three? Probably not. Frankly, I’d be happy if they kept one of them.
When asked specifically about extending Burnes and/or Woodruff, Attanasio immediately began talking about how the budget needs to be looked at annually vs in the aggregate and that as they continue to stretch the budget, it ultimately restricts them.
He did say they’re currently at a point where they can still stretch to do something that’s impactful. However, that doesn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence in a Burnes or Woodruff extension, which is the question he was asked. After all, last season the Brewers signed Andrew McCutchen to a one year, $8.5MM contract and Attanasio said that was “stretching the budget” and they felt that was an impactful move. Well, Burnes and Woodruff are going to cost a lot more than $8.5MM for one year and are a lot more impactful.
What kind of “impact” does Attanasio have the ability to stretch for? A Burnes/Woodruff impact? Or a McCutchen impact?
The lone truly positive moment that should excite fans from this Q&A was Attanasio saying he believes the Brewers are “really well set up for next year”.
Despite the disappointment in 2022, the Brewers are set up pretty well for 2023. They have a lot of guys who didn’t perform well coming off the books and hitting free agency with several high quality prospects ready to contribute at the big league level. They aren’t losing any more of their core pieces. They do have a great core and that group has reinforcements that are arriving.
The pieces are there. Even just the slightest improvement from them should get the Brewers back to October baseball. As we’ve seen, and as Attanasio pointed out, if you get hot at the right time, you can get that World Series. That remains the goal.