With just a few weeks until Brewers players start reporting to Spring Training, the organization will almost assuredly have a lower payroll heading into the 2020 season than they had in 2019.
How much lower remains to be seen — David Stearns said Sunday at Brewers On Deck that he was still “working on some things” but didn’t have anything to announce yet — but the fact that payroll will be lower has been a common source of complaints from a portion of the fanbase this offseason.
Whatever the reason — whether it was not wanting to give Yasmani Grandal a fourth guaranteed year, getting uncomfortable with how the how high bidding for Mike Moustakas got, or not wanting to lock up too much payroll space with Christian Yelich’s contract coming up in a couple years — the Brewers didn’t make a big splash in free agency like they have the previous two winters.
While the question didn’t come up in the fan Q&A portion of Brewers On Deck — and whether or not those questions were screened out is a valid thing to wonder about — Mark Attanasio did have a message when asked by reporters, and it’s something that’s become equal parts rallying cry and tongue-in-cheek joke (at least depending on who you ask): trust the process.
#Brewers owner Mark Attanasio had this basic message for those concerned about what has and hasn't been spent on players over winter: "Trust the process." In other words, it's got them to the playoffs last two seasons.— Tom (@Haudricourt) January 26, 2020
Tom Haudricourt interpreted that to mean “it’s worked the past couple years,” but it certainly looks and feels like the “process” is different this time around.
In 2018, they added Cain and Yelich. In 2019, Grandal. Those are players who were worth 5.7, 7.6, and 5.2 fWAR in the season after they were acquired. They haven't added anyone close to that caliber this time around. This has not been the same process. https://t.co/1MVEKnuDpa— Jack Stern (@baseball7310) January 26, 2020
If you’re a cynic, you’re probably feeling the “process” is similar to what we’ve seen in Tampa and Oakland over the years — a high amount of roster turnover to get cheaper without losing much overall production. If you’re an optimist, you might feel the “process” this winter is some sort of new approach or strategy — certainly a risk given the team’s perceived window, but one that would hopefully pay off while Yelich is still wearing blue and gold.
Speaking more in depth on how the front office has limited spending this season, Attanasio maintained that it was about preserving flexibility to jump on unexpected opportunities when they arise — like they did when they signed Lorenzo Cain two years ago or Yasmani Grandal last year — and avoiding having to go into a full rebuild while competing for the playoffs every year.
Team principal owner Mark Attanasio addresses the Brewers’ lower payroll this year, and the reasons behind it: pic.twitter.com/rQYQ4jCmWj— Todd Rosiak (@Todd_Rosiak) January 26, 2020
Regardless of what Attanasio meant by “process,” it’s clear he still trusts the Brewers to be competitive — and it was clear from what he, Stearns and Craig Counsell said today that that is still the expectation.
More from #Brewers Mark Attanasio: I’m not just glibly saying as an owner, to sell tickets, we’re going to be competitive. Our models, which have been quite accurate the last several years, including 2017 when we surprised everybody, say we’re a really competitive team.”— Tom (@Haudricourt) January 26, 2020
The Brewers were one game away from making the playoffs in 2017 and one game from the World Series in 2018. They’ll be trying to make the playoffs three years in a row for the first time in franchise history in 2020.
Feel free to sound off below on whether you trust Stearns, even if the methods may be changing.
Do you "trust the process" when it comes to the team David Stearns has built for 2020?
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