Attanasio looks forward to developing players

Brewers owner expects payroll to rise as young talent sticks with team

Attanasio looks forward to developing players

MILWAUKEE -- For the first 11 seasons of his tenure as Brewers owner, Mark Attanasio focused almost exclusively on the Major League product. Attanasio will take a wider view this year, looking more closely at Minor League developments as the team enters the first full season of its top-down rebuild.

"I'm actually really looking forward to it," Attanasio said Monday. "We've never had a season like this, where I'm going to be as focused on player development as this season."

After an offseason of turnover engineered by new general manager David Stearns, the Brewers returned to the field Monday with a payroll of less than $70 million, down from more than $100 million in each of the previous two seasons. The roster included three players with salaries of higher than $10 million (Ryan Braun, Matt Garza and Aaron Hill, though most of Hill's pay is coming from the D-backs).

There are different methods of accounting, but one standard bearer is USA Today, which pegged the Brewers' Opening Day payroll at $69.3 million, ahead of only the Braves and Rays.

"I haven't done the math because the ownership group here for many, many years here has not set a budget," Attanasio said. "We really just expand or contract to what we're trying to do. But since it is a zero-sum game, at the time we are ready to compete again, or compete very seriously again -- Craig Counsell hates when I say things like that; he says, 'We're going to compete right now,' which he told me New Year's Eve, by the way -- any dollars that we save now can be used then."

Said Stearns: "I'll add one thing on the payroll because I know it's a constant question: The payroll is really a product of the strategy I'm implementing from a baseball operations department. We want to field a young team that is allowed to grow together, so the payroll is a byproduct of having a young team that will grow together. As that team matures through their careers and gains Major League service, the payroll is naturally going to grow as we keep those players here and we retain our own young talent."

Will fans buy in to the Brewers' long-term approach?

"When I came to our fan event in early January, I was really surprised how our fans had embraced what we are doing," Attanasio said. "They are very sophisticated, this group of fans. I wasn't surprised they understood it, but I know they want to win as much as I want to win. I was pleased they were willing to work with us to go about things the way we are doing it.

"We expect very good attendance this year. Interestingly, we have a record number of corporate sponsors. Companies are spending their hard-earned money with us, tying their brand to our brand. That's telling in a year like this. Craig said it's exciting to be at a ground floor of something. We all know we are at the beginning of something here and we'll all be able to look back on this and say, 'I remember when.' That's actually fun."

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for 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.