Expected rebuild will still test patience of Brewers owner
FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2015, file pjoto, Milwaukee Brewers general manager David Stearns,left, talks to owner Mark Attanasio at a news conference in Milwaukee. When Attanasio checks in with Stearns, he likes to test him like a fan about the team's latest moves. The start of the rebuilding process has been tough for the competitive owner. (AP Photo/Morry Gash, File)
MILWAUKEE (AP) Brewers owner Mark Attanasio talks to his general manager like a fan whenever his rebuilding club makes another move.
The remodeling of the franchise, while long anticipated, is still testing the patience of the competitive and passionate boss.
It could be a few years before the Brewers become a serious contender again, so general manager David Stearns and assistant general manager Matt Arnold should prepare for a lot more texts and emails from Attanasio.
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''I come at it like a fan. I've really tested (the front office) on some of the things we've done,'' Attanasio said. ''David and Matt are very firm in their convictions. You like that as an owner if they don't back down.''
The rebuilding process is under way with Stearns, who was hired in October to replace retired baseball lifer Doug Melvin. The farm system has been replenished, starting with moves made at last year's trade deadline by Melvin.
At the big league level, the roster is turning over, too. The latest deal had shortstop Jean Segura and fringe starter Tyler Wagner going to Arizona for starter Chase Anderson, veteran infielder Aaron Hill and infield prospect Isan Diaz.
Rebuilding will be tough on the veterans as well.
After outfielder Ryan Braun and catcher Jonathan Lucroy, the Brewers are devoid of well-known positional players – and Lucroy could be an attractive trade chip, too.
Lucroy, in a recent interview with the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, said he was fully committed to the Brewers, though as a competitor, he wasn't looking forward to playing on a team that could have a decided disadvantage in proven talent.
''He cares deeply about winning. That's his primary motivation as a baseball player. That's great for me to hear,'' Stearns said this week. ''That's what I want all of my players to believe.''
One of Attanasio's top priorities is to just know the names of the new guys, and there were plenty of them in attendance on Sunday at the team's annual fan outreach event at a Milwaukee convention center.
The fresh faces included first baseman Chris Carter, a free agent signee from Houston, and touted minor leaguer Brett Phillips, who could be the Brewers' center fielder within a couple seasons.
''This is a first for me in 12 years. … I'm embracing that and actually enjoying it,'' Attanasio said. ''It reminded me of my first year with the team.''
In Stearns and manager Craig Counsell, Attanasio hopes he has the right kind of steady, realistic but forward-thinking leaders to oversee the club's new direction.
Counsell took over in May after Ron Roenicke was fired following a 7-18 start. Attanasio recalled a conversation he had with the skipper when he called to wish him happy new year; they ended up talking for an hour.
''One of the things he said was that we are going to have some positive surprises this year. We don't know where they are going to come from, but we are going to have some positive surprises,'' he said.
Attanasio also isn't sugarcoating the year to come. He knows there will be challenges. He'll leave the tough decisions to Stearns and Arnold – though he still might grill them like a die-hard season-ticket holder.
''I want them to not look season to season and at the calendar but I want them to look at what we need to do to get back to the playoffs,'' he added. ''If that takes a few years, it takes a few years.''
Follow Genaro Armas at http://twitter.com/GArmasAP