"Knock on wood, he's one of the most durable pitchers in the game," agent Scott Leventhal said.
"I don't know that it's his best attribute, but it's certainly one of them," echoed Brewers assistant general manager Gord Ash, who handles medical issues for the club. "Durability was a part of his repertoire and what made him appealing, but there is also the issue of his experience in big games and what that will bring to the club. There's value to a staff in having somebody who's been through some things."
Barring injuries before the start of the 2007 season, Suppan will join holdovers Ben Sheets, Chris Capuano and Dave Bush in the starting rotation along with Claudio Vargas, who was acquired along with catcher Johnny Estrada and reliever Greg Aquino in an earlier trade that sent left-hander Doug Davis to the Diamondbacks. The least-experienced member of that five-man rotation is Bush, who has made 72 big-league starts and led the '06 Brewers with 12 wins.
Suppan's contract will supplant the club-record four-year, $38.5 million awarded to Sheets in April 2005.
"This is a significant commitment for our team," Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said in a Christmas Eve conference call. "This helps put a puzzle piece into play in having a competitive team and a solid starting rotation."
The Brewers got serious in their pursuit of Suppan on Dec. 18, when Suppan, Leventhal, Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and manager Ned Yost met for five hours at Attanasio's Los Angeles home. The Brewers officials, who had been spurned by a number of other free agents and were particularly disappointed earlier in the month when free agent outfielder Dave Roberts signed with San Francisco after a prolonged courtship, were trying to gauge whether Suppan was legitimately interested in Milwaukee as a potential new home.
According to Leventhal, he was. Suppan had good reason to want to pitch at Miller Park; he is 5-0 there in seven career starts with a 1.76 ERA.
"That meeting was a turning point," Leventhal said.
At the time, Suppan was being courted by a number of teams, some aiming first for free agent lefty Barry Zito, and by the end of the week Suppan had three offers in hand. According to various reports, they were from the Mets and Pirates.
Melvin submitted the Brewers' written, four-year proposal on Wednesday -- it did not include the fifth-year option -- and asked Friday for a response from Leventhal. Both sides quickly moved close to a deal throughout the day Saturday, and Melvin said terms were finalized at about 12:30 a.m. on Christmas Eve.
The news came as a surprise to many observers, who expected Zito to sign first. At least two of the teams pursuing Zito were also interested in Suppan and may have upped their interest level once Zito was off the board. Zito agreed to terms with the Giants late on Wednesday night.
"We controlled the pace of negotiations from the outset, and understood that once Zito dropped there would be a whole second market there," Leventhal said. "But our whole deal was to make a choice when it was the right time and the right city for 'Soup' and [his wife] Dana. That happened with Milwaukee."
Suppan is 106-101 in 317 career appearances, but he will no longer get to face his favorite opponent. He is 12-2 against the Brewers.
Brewers fans will get their first look at Suppan on Jan. 11, when he is scheduled to participate in the club's second annual Winter Warm-Up at Miller Park. The Warm-Up is billed as the official preview for 2007, and will feature interviews with a number of other players and details of the team's plans to honor the 25th anniversary of the Brewers' only World Series appearance. The event will not be open to the public, but it will be broadcast live on FSN North and on WTMJ-AM 620.