Brewers, Greinke love each other, but it'll be tough to keep him in Milwaukee

NEW YORK -- The Brewers' Mark Attanasio is a terrific owner who badly wants to keep star pitcher Zack Greinke in Milwaukee. However, he understands probably better than anyone the realities of trying to sign a big-time talent in a very small market.

Grienke is a terrific young man who will talk only about the Brewers while publicly discussing his future desires. He talks about how he loves the owner, the manager, the coaches, the players, the fans. Of course, CC Sabathia and Prince Fielder felt the same way, too.

Greinke knows the score. And while he won't say it, the Brewers probably have no better chance than a number of teams to sign Greinke into next year, and maybe even worse than one or two.

Greinke's good friend Ryan Braun, the Brewers' biggest star, has seen this very play up close before. He has seen Sabathia leave via free agency, and he has seen Fielder leave, too.

So when Braun speaks about Greinke's chance to stay when Greinke's already on the cusp of free agency, Braun speaks from experience. "The reality is, when a guy reaches free agency, it's more challenging to sign him,'' Braun said. "It doesn't mean there's no chance. It just means your chances are limited.''

Braun isn't giving up hope entirely, though. "Absolutely,'' Braun answered to a question about whether the Brewers still have a shot to keep Greinke. "I know he's enjoyed his time here, and I think we would definitely be one of his top potential teams.''

One of his top teams. One of them.

That says it all right there. As of this winter, the Brewers become only one of many vying for Greinke's services.

Attanasio speaks glowingly about Greinke, who shut down the Mets over seven innings in Milwaukee's 8-0 victory as the righthander improved to 4-1 with a 2.88 ERA. Those are résumé-building numbers. Those are good free-agent numbers.

Greinke returns the favor, speaking just as nicely about Attanasio, who has helped create something great in Milwaukee even if he hasn't always held onto their best players. More than anything, he wants the winning to continue.

"It's very difficult to build a winning culture. And once you build it, you want to maintain it,'' Attanasio said. "What [general manager Doug Melvin] did was very hard. He and I would like to maintain it.''
They would like to keep it going, and that's with or without Greinke, who's still only 28. The reality is there's no evidence the sides have spoken about a contract since sprining training. So naturally, there's no evidence of progress.

Attanasio answered a question about whether the Brewers want to sign Greinke, who makes $13.5 million this year, this way: "Sure, why not? We'd like to keep him He's able to stop losing streaks. The team plays with a lot of confidence behind him. We'll see.''

The confidence to keep him might be another matter. Matt Cain's $112.5-million, five-year extension with the Giants seemed to coincide with a break in negotiations. Greinke surely views himself as a $20 million pitcher in this marketplace, and why not? The Cain deal could only reinforce that notion, if not enhance it.

"I am a creature of the market, so I am attuned to the market,'' Attanasio said, allowing that the Cain contract does indeed "set a market price.''

Though, Milwaukee is a very different marketplace. "Each of the teams needs to do what it can or can't do within their marketplace,'' Attanasio said.

The Brewers offered Sabathia around $100 million for five years  Fielder was offered $120 million over six years, and the Brewers probably would have gone higher had they been in that game. That one, they understood, was hopeless. Braun was the one big star to stay, for a $105 million, five-year extention that meant he would be a Brewer through 2020.

Greinke sounded very hopeful, at least while talking about this year's chances. "It's all good,'' he said. "This team's going to start turning the corner soon. They have a bunch of really good players, five or six locked up for awhile.''

Conspicuously absent from that locked-up group is Greinke, who chose to accept a trade that included no contract extension to Milwaukee when the Washington Nationals tried to entice him with an extension offer that was said to be worth $100 million. Greinke, to his credit, chose the Brewers because he felt they had a better chance to win. (Although, the Nats turned out better than he figured.)

"That might have worked out better for them,'' Greinke said with a grin. "They got to keep some of their young guys. And I don't know if I could pitch as good as their guys.''

The Nationals indeed look like a contender, though like the Brewers, they have been hurt this year by a rash of injuries. Milwaukee got to the playoffs last year, Greinke's first year in Milwaukee, and despite their current aches and pains, they carry a lot of youthful confidence into the remainder of their schedule.

"It's a good organization,'' Greinke said. "Good owner. Good guys in management. Good guys in the clubhouse. Really good, really good.''

Everyone's good here.

The Brewers' people are great. So is Grienke.

They're all fine people. I just wouldn't bet too much on all these fine people getting together on a new $100-million-plus contract.
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