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Counsell Brews up once more

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Craig is heading back to Milwaukee for the second time in his career - this time, of his own free will, rather than as part of a trade. The Brewers have agreed to pay him $2.8m for 2007 and 2008, with a $3.4m team option or $400K buyout for 2009. I also note that if he's traded, he also gets a $2.8m player option for 2009. It's a bit of a poison pill hidden inside the deal, mostly for the Brewers, who may find him hard to trade as a result - though given he turns 39 in the middle of that year, there probably won't be many teams queueing up for CC.

But Milwaukee seem to love Craig. That contract will take Counsell's career to ten years, and the three best-paid ones have all been in Beer City: his 2007 salary there represents almost a 60% increase over what he was paid by the Diamondbacks this year. And much as we talked about Easley's output the other day, among the 114 NL players with 400+ PA's, by OPS, Counsell ranked in the bottom ten, coming in 105th. [As an aside, I see former D-back, Royce Clayton - #109 on the same list - just got signed by Toronto] Of course, it's true to say that Counsell's value is in part his fielding prowess, and few people would argue against the theory that he is also one of those players who are a positive influence on those around him. That's especially important for a young team like Milwaukee - okay, we'll likely be just as young here, the difference in Phoenix is, our youngsters have already proven themselves superior to their elders.

This is really a win for everyone: as well as the pay-rise, Counsell likely gets to play every day, which he certainly would not have done here. He also grew up and went to high school in the area. The Brewers get a mentor, one of baseball's undeniable good guys, and a known commodity who has already proven himself in Milwaukee. And, hey, as compensation for losing a Type B free agent, the Diamondbacks get a nice sandwich pick in the 2007 draft, between the first and second rounds. All the best to Craig, whose picture can be found in the dictionary, next to "consumate professional." Maybe he'll come back and sign for Arizona in 2009 again. Just for giggles, y'know?

Actually, it was a strange kind of deal, in the end. At first, it looked like Counsell was heading to the Padres, on a two-year, $5m contract. But the Brewers apparently got fed up waiting for Tony Graffanino to respond to their offer, and decided to go after Counsell instead. The Padres pulled their offer after Counsell's agent advised them there were other offers - the Cubs and Cardinals were also interested - and they may end up pursuing Graffanino instead. Kinda amusing to be a spectator on this infield whirlwind, while we sit here, comfortable in the knowledge that Stephen Drew will be our starting SS. It's like watching the mad mating dance in a Scottsdale nightclub at last call, when you know Keira Knightley is waiting in your limo outside. ;-)

Meanwhile, looks like our other much-beloved example of veteran presence, Luis Gonzalez, has reports that we're talking to Mark Mulder. With Davis now added to the rotation, the dynamics of the search for a pitcher now take a slightly-different tack. Having locked in a top three, Mulder now becomes a more-interesting throw of the die. Relying on him as a top of the rotation starter would have been a gamble, but does it now seem like a risk worth taking? Even though I still have a "Mulder" A's shirt in my wardrobe, I'd pass. I'm not sure I like the "two guaranteed years" mention in the article: the piece doesn't mention it at all, but let's remember that he just had rotator cuff surgery, a procedure from which recovery is arduous and far from guaranteed. Let someone else spin the chamber on that one.

To, likely, nobody's great shock, we lost out on rights to the "other" Japanese pitcher up for auction this year, the Yankees bidding about two-and-a-half times what we offered for Kei Igawa. After losing out to the Red Sox for Matsuzaka, the Yankees were clearly taking no chances on failing to get their helping of sloppy seconds from the sushi-bar... Really, it somewhat surprises me that the Diamondbacks ever thought they even had a chance of competing with the big-market behemoths. They should have asked me, and I'd have swiped a few Yu-gi-oh cards from my nephew, to sweeten our bid. I guess we'll keep quietly pursuing Tomo Ohka instead.

Oh, and if you haven't seen it already, take a look at the diaries on the right, and join in the debate as to whether it's better to watch a game at the park or on TV. Of course, in the depths of late November, we'd take just about any baseball... :-)