A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Holy Free Agent Signing, Batman!

The Milwaukee Brewers in recent years have postulated their future sucess on a model like the one the Cleveland Indians and Oakland As have used very successfully-- build a strong minor league farm organization, build from within, and limit free agent additions to the one or two signings that will "put you over the top". They seem to have been doing pretty well with the first part of that equation these last few years, having built one of the best minor league systems in baseball and structuring their team around rising young talent like Prince Fielder, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy and Tony Gwynn, Jr. What was missing was the second part-- the addition of a premier free agent or two to bring both his talent and his expectation of winning to town.

And then all Milwaukee Brewers fans received a Christmas Eve present from the organization, when it announced the signing of Jeff Suppan to a big-time contract-- $42 million over four years with an option for a fifth. Nice! Suppan more than adequately fills the hole left by the dependable but not overly exceptional Doug Davis, and provides the starting rotation with a proven veteran. Added to the mix of Chris Capuano, Ben Sheets, Dave Bush and either Claudio Vargas or Carlos Villanueva, Suppan gives the Brewers a group of pitchers that is certainly above average and may be one of the best in baseball.

This is excellent on so many levels. Most importantly, of course, it means that the Brewers pitching staff should be one of the best in the National League-- and starting pitching is the single biggest key to making the playoffs. Only somewhat less important, though, is the change in attitude the move signals-- under the Brewers' old management there isn't a snowballs chance in H-E-double hockeysticks that this deal gets done. The organization simply wouldn't open its purse strings that much-- and truthfully, even if they had there might not have been enough coin in the purse anyway. Mark Attanasio wants a winning team, and he's willing to spend some coin to get it. Not Steinbrenneresque spending, but smart investments in the right players at the right time at a not-too-exorbinant price.

Sweet. The fact that the Brewers got Suppan from their divisional rivals the St. Louis Cardinals is a bonus as well. With the rotation stabilized and several young stars returning from injuries, the Brewers seemed primed to have a better than .500 season and to make a serious run at the post-season. How cool would that be?


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