The signing of free-agent right-hander Kyle Lohse gives the Milwaukee Brewers five players who will earn a combined $61.5 million in 2014, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts.
Owner Mark Attanasio, however, said Tuesday that the rising payroll will not prevent the Brewers from trying to re-sign first baseman Corey Hart, a potential free agent, or pursuing other players in the future.
National television revenues will rise from approximately $25 million per team to approximately $52 million next season. The Brewers, like all clubs, will gain greater financial flexibility, Attanasio said.
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“I looked at it carefully — this wasn’t going to stop us from being able to make another move, whether it’s to sign Corey or whatever,” Attanasio said. “That did not enter into it.”
Attanasio added that he told Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, “it doesn’t mean we’re making a choice vs. Corey or anybody else that he might want to sign.”
Lohse, 34, agreed Monday to a three-year, $33 million contract with an additional $1 million in innings-based incentives. His signing cost the Brewers the 17th overall pick in the draft as well as the accompanying bonus pool money, leaving the team with $2.1 million less to spend on its picks, according to Baseball America.
Attanasio said it was “very difficult” to lose the pick, noting that the Brewers drafted and developed many of their core players, such as Hart, left fielder Ryan Braun, second baseman Rickie Weeks, catcher Jonathan Lucroy and right-hander Yovani Gallardo.
But Lohse, in Attanasio’s view, was important not only because of the high-end performance he could deliver but also the leadership he would provide to some of the team’s younger pitchers.
“Doug did a good job articulating the balance that our organization and other organizations have to go through between winning now and building for the future. We’d like to try to do both,” Attanasio said.
“Under the circumstances, we had to make a decision between the future, the draft pick and bringing in a pitcher who had a huge amount of our success in our division and also who would help mentor our young pitchers.
“It’s interesting. Some writers read the move as meaning we don’t have confidence in our young pitchers. Not at all. This means with Yovani and Kyle, it will allow our young guys to develop with less pressure. We have a lot of confidence in the young guys.”
As for the first-round pick, the Brewers could have retained it by signing another free-agent right-hander, Ryan Dempster, who was not subject to draft-pick compensation. But the Red Sox, by reaching an agreement with Dempster on a two-year, $26.5 million deal in December, trumped the Brewers’ offer.
Lohse, 30-11 with a 3.11 ERA the past two seasons, has enjoyed more recent success than Dempster, who also is a year older. The Brewers, at the time they were bidding for Dempster, did not believe they had a chance at Lohse.
“They were presented in sequence. They weren’t presented at the same time,” Attanasio said of the two free-agent pitchers. “At the time we made the Dempster decision, we thought Kyle would go at a higher price.”
When Lohse’s price dropped, the Brewers struck, grabbing him for $11 million per season. Dempster received $2.25 million more annually from the Red Sox but signed for one fewer year.
According to the terms of Lohse’s deal, $7 million of his $11 million salary in 2013 will be deferred without interest and paid between 2016 and ’18. The deferrals lowered the present-day value of the contract from $33 million to $31.95 million, according to the players’ union.
Lohse can earn an additional $333,000 for pitching 190 innings in ’13, $333,000 for pitching 190 innings in ’14 and $334,000 for pitching 190 in ’15. His contract does not include a no-trade clause.