Attanasio tells Crew to seize opportunity in '18

Owner says this is Brewers' most talented squad since making it to '11 NLCS

February 20th, 2018

PHOENIX -- Fourteen Spring Training speeches later, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio remains first a fan, which is why all these years later he was genuinely giddy Tuesday to stand and speak in front of a team of Major League ballplayers. When agent Scott Boras calls that guy to chat about or one of his other clients -- and Boras has been in touch -- the fan in Attanasio cannot help but get excited.

But then there is Attanasio's other side. He owns a multimillion-dollar corporation with hundreds of employees, including a group of analysts led by GM David Stearns whose job it is to make recommendations based on cold, hard data. That guy cannot afford to look at things solely through the lens of a fan.

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So, as Brewers officials consider whether to add more to the core of players already in camp -- whether that means signing a free agent like Arrieta or Alex Cobb or , or trading from Milwaukee's bumper crop of outfielders -- the owner is somewhere in the middle.

"According to the analytics," Attanasio said, the Brewers' first full-squad workout serving as his backdrop, "we are going to score a lot of runs. That's not a surprise. And our pitchers are going to perform well above replacement level.

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"If you look at adding a pitcher, since that's part of the conversation, you need to look at the increment above what our guys are going to perform at, not at the absolute. We think a lot of these pitchers, including some of the younger ones, are going to perform at a high level. So David is going to be completely agnostic and look solely at that increment.

"As a fan, 'name' guys who have had success in the Major Leagues are exciting to add to the mix. It was very exciting to add this year. It was very exciting to add . And frankly, we think is going to pitch really well, especially with [pitching coach Derek Johnson] helping him on the pitching side. The ability to bring on guys who have demonstrated success always makes a team better.

"I come at it from that standpoint. David comes at it from his agnostic standpoint. And [manager Craig] Counsell walked in on us today and said, 'It's up to you two guys. Let me know what you decide.' He didn't want any part of this discussion."

The discussion will continue, but on Tuesday, the focus was on players already at Maryvale Baseball Park. They gathered with coaches and front office officials and support staff just after 9:30 a.m. local time for a Spring Training tradition. Counsell reiterated his message of "connectedness" and, according to Attanasio, urged players to embrace the weight of expectations brought on by last year's 86-win surprise.

Attanasio gave a speech of his own, thanking players for the sacrifices they and their families make from Spring Training through the end of the season. After surprising the room last year with "don't eff it up" -- as in, don't squander the opportunities inherent in rebuilding -- he stressed carpe diem this year.

Seize the day.

"This year can really be special," Attanasio said. "Last year was a lot of fun, so if you can do something special and have fun, that's rare in life. Now that I've turned 60, I have some perspective on that. I tried to emphasize to the guys to embrace that. That's where carpe diem comes in."

Will Attanasio be disappointed if they fall short of the postseason? He did not directly answer, but he did say, "There's a lot of talent in that clubhouse. That's the most talent we've had since 2011."

The '11 Brewers made it to the National League Championship Series. Coincidentally, it was two established starting pitchers -- Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum, each acquired via trade -- that put the team over the top.

"We try to bifurcate the conversation," Attanasio said. "We're always looking to add, and we don't want that to mask that we're really happy and excited about this group. We think this group right here, right now, can get to the playoffs. And if we want to supplement at midseason, we will always do that if we are in the hunt.

"That said, we are always trying to make the team better. They are working hard, still, on available free agents. They are working hard on potential trades."