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Counsell Headed Elsewhere?

You know how most of us were just assuming that the Brewers would be able to bring back Craig Counsell on another hometeam-friendly one year contract after a surprisingly good 2009 season? According to Buster Olney, that might not happen. Olney tweets that about 12 teams are interested in Counsell’s services, and wouldn’t mind offering him a multi-year deal.

Two of the teams interested? The Red Sox and the Yankees. Nice knowing you, Craig.

While I’m not sure what the Yankees would want to do with Counsell (other than keep him away from the Red Sox), Boston could probably use a guy like him, especially if they’re not entirely confident in their shortstop situation.

They declined a $6 million option on Alex Gonzalez, who they acquired during the season, but don’t take that as a ringing endorsement of Jed Lowrie or Nick Green. You may remember that the Red Sox were discussed as a possible suitor for J.J. Hardy at least earlier this year, so they’re seemingly not opposed to a short-term solution at the position. Counsell wouldn’t be the ideal fix, but he could be a relatively cheap one while fitting the profile of the kind of player Theo Epstein typically likes — he’s still good defensively, he’s patient at the plate, and he knows his role in the grand scheme of things. He also has championship experience and could prove to be a great mentor for the younger infielders on the team. His versatility certainly helps, too — aside from shortstop, he could occasionally spell Dustin Pedroia at second or cover third when Youkilis plays first (but that’s not taking into account possible Casey Kotchman AB’s or a huge trade bringing someone in, like Adrian Gonzalez).

So if half a dozen teams are interested, should the Brewers bother getting involved in a possible bidding war? Would they be better off paying Felipe Lopez $5-$6 million to play the role of supersub for one year, rather than paying Counsell that amount over the next two years combined? Or do they let both go and take their chances with Adam Heether backing up Alcides Escobar (who no one knows if he’ll hit) and Rickie Weeks (who no one knows if he’ll stay healthy)? Add in the fact that Heether is more of a 2B/3B kind of utility player and not a viable long-term option at short, and Craig Counsell (Craig freaking Counsell!) may be the most important player that may be leaving the team this offseason.

We saw how a lack of infield depth hurt the Brewers this past season after Weeks went down and Hardy struggled early in the year. Here’s to hoping that Doug Melvin doesn’t get so caught up in improving the pitching that he forgets to address other issues that may end up being just as important down the road.

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