Attanasio has made the Brewers a destination
A year ago, Mark Attanasio called what was happening in Miller Park a "sea change."
Not only would agents now take Doug Melvin's calls, but players were calling the long-time Milwaukee Brewers general manager. Perceptions don't change overnight, hence Attanasio's Shakespeare reference.
Milwaukee is the same, as is Miller Park – but the Brewers have changed in the nine years Attanasio has owned the team.
"We are now a destination," Attanasio said.
Veteran right-hander Kyle Lohse is just the latest to prove that point.
"I looked at how competitive they could be and that's why Milwaukee was high on the list of teams I wanted to talk to and see if it was a fit," said Lohse, who signed a three-year, $33 million contract at the end of March.
While it's true that Lohse is not the caliber of free agent like Zack Greinke, he is an example of a player who feels Milwaukee offers the best of both worlds to a player – maximum dollars with a chance to win.
Following a two-year period where he went 30-11 over 63 starts with a 3.11 earned run average where he threw over 200 innings each year (including playoffs), Lohse was considered one of the top free agent pitchers on the market.
But he wasn't just looking for dollars. In his 12-year career Lohse has appeared in 11 postseason series (13 games) with three different teams, winning a World Series with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011.
The chance to win mattered just as much to him.
"I wasn't going to just go somewhere just to go somewhere," Lohse said. "I've done a lot of stuff in this game. I've got a ring. I've played for parts of 12 years. I wanted to sign somewhere where I've got a chance to win and that was definitely a big part of the equation."
Perhaps that is the greatest selling point Attanasio can offer. Prior to taking over the team on Jan. 13, 2005, the Brewers had posted a losing record for 12 straight seasons. Since 2005, the team has made the playoffs twice and won more games than it lost four times.
But there was no doubt Attanasio had to show players the money, too. For years, the Brewers ranked near the bottom of the Major Leagues in payroll. Since taking over, the organization has been above average – even stretching to nearly $100 million last season.
The first free agent signed under Attanasio's watch was reliever Ricky Bottalico, who signed a one-year deal for $800,000 on Jan. 21, 2005.
In 2006, Jeff Suppan reaped the rewards of an owner looking to make a splash, and needing to show agents money could be had in Milwaukee.
It took another two years before a free agent received a multi-year deal from the Brewers, and that was Randy Wolf in 2009. Corey Hart signed a three-year contract extension in 2010 worth just under $27 million.
In the winter of 2010, Greinke waived his full no-trade clause to come to the Brewers from Kansas City.
"I just really wanted to be in a place where they were playing to win games right away," Greinke told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel at the time. "So Milwaukee is obviously that place."
In 2011, the Brewers locked up Ryan Braun through 2020 with a $105 million extension. The team then not only paid a posting fee, but invested two years in an unknown Norichika Aoki. Aramis Ramirez got a three-year deal.
This year, Carlos Gomez agreed to a three-year extension. Then, Lohse received a multi-year deal.
"We're attracting players like Kyle, like Aramis Ramirez and players like Ryan Braun want to commit to us long term," Attanasio said. "I think that really shows how high a quality experience it is here from top to bottom.
Yes, CC Sabathia and Prince Fielder walked away – the Brewers will never be in that financial stratosphere – but the signings of the last few years are more impactful than bringing in likes of Chris Coste, Scott Sheldon, Brooks Kieschnick, John Vander Wal and Tony Fernandez.
Much of that has to do with the man running the show.
"I'd rather have an owner involved and active than to have an owner that doesn't care," Doug Melvin said. "Owners who are active, they do care. They care about the players, they care about the community, they care about the franchise, so you have someone like then you exchange your ideas, your thoughts, put your teams together and have success."
I think Miller Park is the destination. It's a wonderful place to watch baseball. The Brewers just happen to play there.
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