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10/31/08 7:08 PM EST
Counsell's option declined by Brewers
Club expresses interest in retaining infielder at lower cost
By Adam McCalvy / MLB.com
MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers declined infielder Craig Counsell's $3.4 million club option on Friday, but the club expressed interest in continuing talks with Counsell about returning at a reduced price. For now, the Brewers paid a $400,000 buyout, and Counsell joined the team's list of players eligible for free agency. No additional Brewers formally filed on Friday after five players did so Thursday. Counsell, who turned 38 in August and lives in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay, batted .226 in 248 at-bats last season and played an increasingly key role as the season wore on and Bill Hall didn't gain hold of everyday duties at third base. Counsell made 60 starts in the regular season; 30 at third base, 19 at shortstop and 11 at second base. This was Counsell's second stint with his hometown team. The Brewers originally acquired him from Arizona in December 2003 as part of the Richie Sexson trade, then re-acquired him as a free agent in November 2006 with a two-year contract that guaranteed $6 million, including the $400,000 buyout. Counsell did not qualify as a Type-A or Type-B free agent, so the Brewers will not receive any compensation if he signs elsewhere. In other club matters: The Brewers still face decisions on club options for center fielder Mike Cameron and closer Salomon Torres. They must decide whether to bring Cameron back for $10 million or pay a $750,000 buyout by the end of the day on Monday, per the terms of Cameron's contract. "Mike certainly liked his time there in Milwaukee, but it's kind of out of his hands now," agent Mike Nicotera said. "At this time, he's planning on coming back there. That's where his mind is at right now." The Oakland A's claimed utility infielder Joe Dillon off waivers on Friday. The Brewers designated Dillon for assignment earlier in the week to clear a 40-man roster spot for third baseman Casey McGehee, who was claimed off waivers from the Cubs. As expected, CC Sabathia and Ben Sheets qualified as Type-A free agents based on their statistics over the last two seasons, meaning the Brewers would receive two compensatory picks before the end of the second round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft for each player who signs with another team. Sabathia was the top-rated National League starter and Sheets was 13th. Brewers free-agent relievers Brian Shouse, Eric Gagne and Torres qualified as Type-B free agents, meaning the Brewers would receive one extra Draft pick between the first two rounds for each of those players who signs elsewhere. Shouse missed the cutoff for Type-A consideration by one spot, finishing just behind Phillies right-hander Brett Myers, who was a reliever in 2007 but moved back to the starting rotation in 2008. As an aside, the Elias rankings group outfielders and first basemen together, and Ryan Braun ranked seventh in the NL, just ahead of Prince Fielder, who was in the eighth position. Fielder is still three years away from free agency, and Braun is under contract through 2015. A Brewers spokesperson confirmed that bullpen coach Bill Castro and first-base coach Ed Sedar will be back in those roles for 2009, but there was no final word on the status of interim manager Dale Sveum or pitching coach Mike Maddux. Sveum said Thursday that he expected to be back as either the hitting, bench or third-base coach, but Maddux's future is more murky. The Brewers have offered him a contract to return, but the Texas Rangers reportedly are interested in his services, and beginning Saturday, Maddux is free to speak to other teams. That may be why the Brewers had hoped for an answer from Maddux before his current contract expired on Friday. The Brewers plan to announce the full coaching staff next week.
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.