Counsell, Burnes' futures hot topic as Brewers' GM wraps season

October 10th, 2023

MILWAUKEE – Brewers general manager Matt Arnold declined to predict the future for free agent manager Craig Counsell but said he expects  to be in a Milwaukee uniform on Opening Day during a wide-ranging question and answer session on Tuesday.

Here’s a six-pack of takeaways:

1. The Brewers aren’t going to pressure Counsell to make a decision.
“I’m excited about having those conversations with him and looking forward to hopefully having some news for you guys soon, if possible,” Arnold said. “Either way, we’re going to be prepared to have a manager next year, if it’s not Craig. But I want to keep every line open for communication here as much as we can because he’s our top choice here for sure.” 

Counsell’s contract runs through the end of the month. He offered no hints during the season about which direction he’s leaning for 2024 and beyond. 

“I want to respect Craig,” Arnold said. “I want to respect the time that he’s put into this franchise and the opportunity that he has in front of him.”

2. Brandon Woodruff's shoulder is the only concerning medical matter.
“He’s going to be looked at this week,” Arnold said. “We’re optimistic, but we’ll never know until the reports come out. But we’re going to wait until he gets another opinion on his shoulder at this point.”

Asked whether “optimistic” means ready for Opening Day, Arnold said, “Any time you have issues with a shoulder, it’s hard to know exactly because it’s so complicated. There are so many mechanisms within the shoulder that we know are a factor, and it is more complicated than the elbow. But it’s hard to say from my perspective. We’ll wait until we get the evaluation.”

3. It’s possible that Burnes, and Woodruff all remain with the Brewers going into their final year of contractual control.
“The short answer is that we're extremely comfortable having them,” Arnold said.

The team is at an important crossroads with those players, the most prominent of the group eligible for arbitration one final time before reaching free agency following next season. The Brewers haven’t kept a player of that prominence all the way until free agency (rather than trade him for controllable talent) since Prince Fielder in 2011.

“The foundation is that they're here and they're really good players,” Arnold said. “Obviously, anything can happen over the course of an offseason. We'll certainly have to entertain a lot of different discussions but we recognize the value of these players and how much they mean to our franchise.”

Of Burnes specifically, Arnold said, “Corbin means a ton to what we've done here. He's been a warrior on the mound. He's the guy we wanted on the mound in Game 1. He's been the guy that we want on the mound in big games. I'm thrilled that he's here. We'll see how it plays out over the course of the offseason, but I would expect him to be here next year. We can never close the door on any conversations, as you guys know – that's just the reality of where we are – but we know that he is a very, very valuable member of our franchise.”

4. No major front office or coaching changes are expected.
“I think given the Craig situation, [the coaching staff] is not finalized,” Arnold said. “But I would hope that we bring everybody back.”

5. The Brewers want more offense from first base and third base, and Tyler Black (MLB Pipeline’s No. 4 Brewers prospect) is in the picture.
“I think there's a way we can certainly improve there,” Arnold said. “Obviously, we liked what we got out of [Andruw] Monasterio this year at third base. I think we like what we see out of Tyler Black. We'll see what he ends up being at third or first, but he's got a lot of upside as well and can factor into the situation for next year, potentially early on.”

6. There’s no such thing as “too many outfielders.”
“You have depth until you don't. I think we ran into it a little bit this year,” Arnold said. “Honestly, we had a number of injuries – guys go down. We had [Sal] Frelick and [Garrett] Mitchell go down just about the same day. You have a lot of outfielders, and then all of a sudden you don't, so I think we're conscious of that.”

On paper, it’s a crowd. remains under contract and the Brewers must decide on 's $11.5 million club option following the World Series. is arbitration-eligible following a productive second half. is a solid reserve who plays good defense and is a switch-hitter. Then there are the prospects: Mitchell, Frelick and  all logged significant Major League time this season.

Plus, is coming. The Brewers’ top prospect, No. 2 on MLB Pipeline’s Top 100, finished the season with a taste of Triple-A Nashville and will start there next season.

“It's hard to put a timetable on it for a 19-year-old,” Arnold said, “but he has a chance to be really special.”