NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Since he took over as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers in May, Craig Counsell has seen his starting corner infielders, two starting outfielders, a starting pitcher and a closer traded away. The latest was first baseman Adam Lind, who was sent to Seattle on Wednesday morning for three teenage pitching prospects.
Asked to comment on the immediate challenges presented a manager by those sort of players-for-prospects deals, Counsell instead pointed to the calendar.
"You understand that it is Dec. 9," Counsell said at the Winter Meetings, "and we have four months left. So those are trades where we're kind of acquiring Minor League players that will help us in the future. But there's still players to add during the next four months."
The comment highlighted the balancing act ahead of new general manager David Stearns, who is continuing a rebuilding project that began in July but also has some resources to direct toward fielding a competitive Major League team. At the moment, only five players are under contract for 2016: Right fielder Ryan Braun, starting pitcher Matt Garza and catchers Jonathan Lucroy and Martin Maldonado accounting for about $35 million next season. Arbitration-eligible players Wily Peralta, Jean Segura and Will Smith will push that total to $40 million-$45 million.
Even if the Brewers' payroll decreases significantly from recent years, that leaves money to spend, and the team has been actively exploring additions at first base, third base and center field. Jason Rogers is the leading incumbent option at first base, and recently-acquired Jonathan Villar could get a chance at third.
In center field, the Brewers appear increasingly unlikely to bridge the gap to No. 2 prospect Brett Phillips with Domingo Santana, who is better suited to a corner spot. Counsell believes he can find enough at-bats for Santana mixing in with starting left fielder Khris Davis and right fielder Braun.
"I think adding a center fielder will be a priority for the rest of the offseason" Counsell said.
Assuming the Brewers seek a short-term solution while Phillips seasons at Triple-A Colorado Springs, Austin Jackson and Alejandro De Aza are among the mid-level center fielders available in free agency.
Speaking more generally about the Brewers' recent moves, Counsell said, "It's going to look different a little bit. It's going to be young players, and I think we're trying to put together a group of young players to come together, and maybe struggle with those guys together, but stick with them and get a good group that we can grow with."
Does that take time to sell to the team's fan base?
"It doesn't take time to sell it," Counsell said. "I think it takes patience to live through it."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamMcCalvy, like him on Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.