|That mustache is on Fiers. (US Presswire)|
The Brewers are generally considered a small market team despite perennially strong attendance and Opening Day payrolls that flirted with nine figures in recent years. Maybe they aren't considered a true "small market team," but you certainly won't see them being confused for a large market club anytime soon.
Payroll is about to come down though, and substantially as well. Tom Haudricourt of The Journal Sentinel explains...
After Mark Attanasio took over as principal owner of the Brewers in January 2005, the team's player payroll steadily increased by leaps and bounds, reaching a franchise record of $101 million at the start of last season.
With that backdrop, it is noteworthy that the payroll is coming down for the first time under Attanasio in 2013, and by a significant amount. As it stands now, the Brewers are projected to open the season with a payroll of less than $80 million, a decrease of more than 20% from a year ago.
Multiple factors came into play in reaching that reduced payroll level, including the desire of Attanasio and general manager Doug Melvin to maintain financial flexibility for future personnel moves. Another important component is their belief that it's time to give homegrown starting pitchers – who won't have big salaries – the chance to prove they belong in the major leagues.
That group of homegrown starters includes right-handers Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, Tyler Thornburg, and Mark Rogers behind veterans Yovani Gallardo, Marco Estrada, and Chris Narveson. Milwaukee did make a run at Ryan Dempster before he signed with the Red Sox, but otherwise they have shown little interest in free agent starters this offseason.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the Brewers will be faced with the free agencies of Corey Hart and Carlos Gomez after the season. John Axford will be a due sizable arbitration raise if he keeps his closing job, and two years from now Gallardo and Aramis Ramirez will be eligible for free agency. Rickie Weeks could hit the open market at the same time depending on his club option. Ryan Braun goes from big bucks to huge bucks in the near future as well.
The NL Central isn't wide open but it is winnable. The Brewers have overhauled baseball's worst bullpen this winter and they did lead the league in runs scored last season, when they finished just five games out of a playoff spot. Maintaining financial flexibility and giving the young kids a shot is a perfectly fine strategy, but there's something to be said for going for it as well. Adding a veteran starter or two could have improved their playoff odds and led to millions in playoff revenue, if not more.
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