Craig Counsell owed it to his family to take the best deal, even if it meant leaving his hometown team. When his hometown team offered the best deal, his choice became easy.
Counsell and the Brewers finalized a $2.1 million, one year contract on Monday that ensured Counsell will play half his games within a bike ride of his suburban Milwaukee home. Counsell, who will turn 40 next August, projects as the team’s primary backup infielder and first bat off the bench.
“There were more choices than last year, for sure, but in the end this was the best deal,” Counsell said. “I want to keep playing. I think I’m going strong. In the end, this was the best thing for both sides.”
Counsell batted .285 for the Brewers in 2009 with 34 extra-base hits, a .357 on-base percentage and a .408 slugging percentage. Counsell also went 5-for-16 as a pinch-hitter in his best all-around season since 2001, when he played for a Diamondbacks club that won the World Series.
He credited Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum, who helped Counsell re-make his signature swing. Counsell lowered the position of his hands and the power followed.
“The adjustments I made were huge. In a lot of ways I felt like a different offensive player,” Counsell said. “Now the challenge is to do it again, or to improve on it, really.”
He’s an important piece for the Brewers, who will feature an injury-prone second baseman in Rickie Weeks, a rookie shortstop in Alcides Escobar and a second-year third baseman in Casey McGehee. All three of those players are right-handed hitters; Counsell is a lefty.
According to the Associated Press, Counsell can earn $500,000 more in incentives: $50,000 each for 50, 75, 90 and 110 games, and $100,000 each for 125 games and 75 and 100 starts.
Counsell wouldn’t name the other clubs that inquired about his services but hinted that some were offering more than the straight, one-year deal he got from the Brewers.
“In the end, we decided to take the best one-year deal,” Counsell said. “That’s what we got.”