With four teams looking for new managers at the moment, the Brewers are hoping they won’t be the fifth, as team owner Mark Attanasio has made clear his preference that Craig Counsell remains in the dugout. The logic is obvious — Counsell has a 707-625 record in his nine seasons as Milwaukee’s manager, leading the Brewers to playoff appearances in five of the last six seasons. Widely regarded as one of baseball’s better skippers, Counsell has been a key ingredient in the Brewers’ success, and thus a very intriguing candidate for other teams looking for a new leader.
Counsell’s contract is officially up on October 31, and though Attanasio approached the manager about a new deal earlier this year, Counsell’s preference was to wait until the season was over to delve into contract negotiations. With another NL Central title on his resume, Counsell is in a pretty nice negotiating position to command a big raise from the Brewers, and continue both his run as manager and his longstanding ties to the organization. In addition to his stint as manager, Counsell also grew up in Wisconsin, his father worked for the Brewers’ community relations division, and Counsell played six of his 16 MLB seasons as a player in a Brewers uniform.
As per recent reports from Jon Heyman of the New York Post, “Counsell will stay if he’s paid what he believes is fair,” according to a source linked to the Brewers. That said, it isn’t yet clear how far along (if at all) the two sides are in negotiations, even with the October 31 deadline getting closer. It could be that Counsell is waiting until November to officially hit the open market and gauge his worth with some other offers….and one high-spending team in particular looms as a natural candidate for Counsell’s services.
Rumors swirled for years that the Mets were targeting David Stearns as the next president of their baseball operations department, and the pursuit finally ended in September when New York hired Stearns as the new PBO. With Stearns seen as likely to eventually join the Mets, there was lots of speculation that Counsell might be looking to join his former Brewers boss in Queens, and that speculation only intensified when Stearns fired Buck Showalter in one of his first acts in charge of the front office.
There hasn’t been a ton of public buzz about the Mets’ managerial search, apart from the fact that the team is looking to hire a skipper from outside the organization. Blue Jays first base coach Mark Budzinski and Rangers associate manager Will Venable have both been linked to the position, though Venable took him out of the running by declining an interview opportunity. The relative lack of news about the Mets’ search could indicate that they’re waiting to get a chance to speak with Counsell, or it could simply mean that the team is keeping its cards close to the vest. It is also possible that Stearns might be a little preoccupied with other business given the unexpected resignation of GM Billy Eppler, though the managerial search was expected to take priority over the efforts to find a new general manager (who would act as Stearns’ chief lieutenant).
If not Milwaukee or New York, we can’t rule out the other teams with managerial openings as possible landing spots for Counsell. Hiring Counsell would give the Guardians an appropriately big name to help fill the void left by Terry Francona, and the Guards have a Brewers-esque approach in trying to perpetually contend despite a limited payroll. The Giants have a lot more spending capacity and seem to be looking for something of a culture change, so hiring Counsell could certainly provide such a spark to the organization. The Angels could be going through something of a transition phase if Shohei Ohtani leaves, though there’s obvious appeal in managing Ohtani (if he re-signs) and Mike Trout, and Counsell could welcome the challenge of ending the Halos’ playoff drought. Beyond these teams, we might also consider other teams who could be more open to a managerial change if Counsell enters the market, with the Padres perhaps still a club to watch in this regard.
With all of this in mind, where do you think Counsell will be managing next season?
(poll link for app users)