As the Milwaukee Brewers gathered for team meetings prior to the first full-team workout of spring training, owner Mark Attanasio delivered a message of optimism and expectations of contending.
While many outside of Brewers camp have lowered expectations, Attanasio says nothing has changed internally.
“The first day of spring training is always optimistic, right?” Attanasio said. “Last year we were coming off the playoff wins and were division champs and had brought everybody back, so we had a very high degree of confidence with that.
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“Frankly, there was some nervousness because the expectations were so high. This year, we don’t have the same expectations, but I have a lot of enthusiasm, because we played so well at the end of last year. From the point we traded Zack Greinke, we had the fifth-best record in baseball, and from Aug. 20 we had the best record in baseball, along with the Athletics. That’s over two months. Now we need to do it over six months.”
Attanasio again was asked about Milwaukee’s interest in free agent starter Kyle Lohse. While he didn’t rule out adding Lohse to the rotation, Attanasio didn’t sound optimistic, either.
Lohse’s agent, Scott Boras, was asked about his client a few days earlier at a spring training camp, and hinted the right-hander’s decision is dependent on certain owners making decisions to add payroll. Not only would Lohse demand a pretty penny, but the team that signs him must forfeit a first-round draft pick and the slot money associated with the pick.
“Scott’s always pushing,” Attanasio said when asked if he’s one of the owners Boras was talking about. “One of the reasons Scott is such a good agent is he’s always pushing everybody all the time. I think what Scott does is try to optimize situations for players. The fact that he thinks Milwaukee is a good situation speaks well of what we have going in Milwaukee.
“Our ears are always open, but we don’t want to lead our fans on in any way. There’s not an active conversation.”
Attanasio reiterated the flexibility the Brewers have by dropping payroll down to around the $80 million mark. Adding Lohse would raise the payroll and hamper financial flexibility, and also hurt roster flexibility.
There’s little doubt Lohse – who went 16-3 with a 2.86 ERA for St. Louis last season – would help Milwaukee’s inexperienced rotation, but would also take the spot of one of the young pitchers the Brewers are so high on.
Add in the money, loss of draft pick and slot money, and Lohse wearing a Brewers’ uniform is unlikely.
“This year we have a lot of returning guys but we definitely have capital flexibility,” Attanasio said. “Everybody always talks about free agents but we can have a trade, too. Whether it’s now or midseason, we can do things. But we really want to see what these guys can do because they’ve earned that.
“Setting a rigid (payroll) number and sticking to that number, I’ve not found that to be a good way to run the team, either from a business standpoint or a baseball standpoint. It’s better to look at where your team is from a baseball standpoint and then fill in as needed. So this year, we have more flexibility. Whether we use that flexibility this year or next year depends on both how we’re doing and who’s available.”
Close to perfect attendance: With the first full-team workout coming on Saturday, the yearly attendance check is in order.
Brewers manager Ron Roenicke reported that everyone is in camp with the exception of right-hander Jairo Asencio.
The 28-year-old has yet to report to camp due to work visa problems in the Dominican Republic.
Interviews for this story provided by the Milwaukee Brewers