Despite rebuild, Brewers set to be buyers at deadline
MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Brewers' biggest fan calls team owner Mark Attanasio regularly and wonders occasionally what moves one of baseball's most surprising teams might make at the trade deadline.
Former team owner and baseball commissioner Bud Selig is getting inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 30, a day before baseball's non-waiver trade deadline. For the first time in a couple seasons, the Brewers are in contention.
Should they be buyers and potentially veer from a long-term rebuilding plan? Or stand pat but hold on to the best prospects in one of the league's top farm systems?
"With (Selig) it's more, he wants to be on the inside knowing what we're doing, what are we thinking," Attanasio said. "So he wouldn't know the prospects. `Is that guy the Cubs traded (away) really that good?'"
It's up to Milwaukee's current regime to figure out.
The surprising Brewers are trying to hold off the defending World Series champion Cubs, the Cardinals and the Pirates in the National League Central after holding a 5 1/2-game lead at the All-Star break.
A wild-card berth is also in play with Arizona and Colorado struggling out West in recent weeks, meaning Milwaukee still has a potential path to the playoffs even if the Cubs awaken from their season-long slumber.
If anything, the Brewers probably won't be selling at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, and that in itself is a big surprise for a team in just the second full season of a rebuild.
For Attanasio, the best way to move forward changes on an almost daily basis.
"You don't know what it is, because it's dynamic. It's not a static process," Attanasio said. "And by the way, there (are) games to be played, so between now and the trade deadline, teams that ... think they're not sellers could become sellers."
Milwaukee was a seller at the deadline the previous two seasons, moving pieces including catcher Jonathan Lucroy and outfielder Carlos Gomez.
There are painful memories from the last time the Brewers were in contention in 2014. Back then, Milwaukee led by 6 1/2 games on July 1 before collapsing down the stretch.
Much has changed since, from the clubhouse to the front office. Left fielder Ryan Braun is the only everyday player remaining from the 2014 team.
Craig Counsell took over as manager after Ron Roenicke was fired in May 2015; David Stearns took over as general manager after Doug Melvin retired at the end of the 2015 season.
Attanasio, Stearns and Counsell spoke Friday to catch up for the second half.
"So we know this is going to be a focused two weeks," Attanasio said in recounting the conversation. "Craig was saying ... `It can't be we're just hanging on. We have to stay loose.' Then he looked at me and said `This means you, too!'"
But this bunch of Brewers for the most part has been immune to the stretches of uninspiring baseball that can dog teams over a long season. Counsell has created an energetic environment in a clubhouse made up largely of young, hungry players.
That, in turn, has created steadiness among players enjoying their first pennant race.
"We've been a consistent team," Counsell said. "We've been pretty vanilla in that aspect. We haven't gone to many extremes."
Not that the Brewers haven't been looking to add help. They could use a starter or bullpen help.
Stearns made a minor deal last week in sending first base prospect Garrett Cooper to the New York Yankees for left-handed reliever Tyler Webb.
Attanasio said the Brewers were in on discussions with the Chicago White Sox for left-hander Jose Quintana, who was ultimately dealt to the Cubs in a trade that netted the White Sox a couple of top prospects. The 28-year-old Quintana, with his club-friendly contract, is exactly the kind of player the Brewers might be focusing on down the stretch.
Still, Attanasio doesn't sound like someone who is about to make a move just to counter the Cubs.
"Maybe it's the confidence I have in David and the group, the process we've put in place," Attanasio said. "I'm surprised how (he's not affected by the Cubs' deal). We have to do the right thing here."
And if nothing else, Selig will be watching.
"I mean, he does call me every day about the team," Attanasio said with a smile.