Today, the Milwaukee Brewers resigned Craig Counsell to a one year deal. Counsell played a huge role in 2009 for the Brewers. If everything goes according to plan, Counsell's main job will consist of coming off the bench. There was little doubt the Brewers were going to keep Counsell. The deal is reportedly worth just over $2 million.
Counsell had a great 2009. After Rickie Weeks went down for the season with a wrist injury, Counsell posted one of his best seasons ever. In 404 at bats, he posted a .285/.357/.408/.765 line, while playing above average defense. Throughout his career, Counsell's main attribute has been his glove. While his UZR's have fluctuated, he has consistently been a very good defender, even near the end of his career.
My main concern with the Counsell negotiations with Milwaukee was overlooking his prior failures at the plate. There is little to suggest Counsell can post the same numbers as 2009. Bill James currently projects Counsell to post a .246/.337/.327/.664 line in 2010. Those numbers would be in line with what the Brewers should expect out of Counsell. To be honest, last season's production really came out of nowhere. Before 2009, Counsell hadn't posted an OPS over .675 since 2005. While his change in batting stance might have helped somewhat, Counsell isn't going to set any records with the bat. While OPS under .700 aren't exciting, it seems rather consistent with what teams get from a backup middle infielders.
What sets Counsell apart from other infield reserve is his versatility and glove. Counsell is able to play 2B, SS and 3B. While other players are also able to do this, what sets Counsell apart is he can play great defense at every position. According to the defensive projections of BeyondtheBoxscore.com, Counsell will play each of those positions above average in 2010. His projected UZR/150 for SS is 1.8, 2B is 1.6 and 3B is 1.3. Those are impressive numbers to say the least.
While Counsell can qualify as a good bench player, he also provides insurance to Rickie Weeks. Weeks surely has the talent to be one of the best second baseman in the game, but has had problems with injuries in the past. It's nice to know the Brewers have a viable backup if Weeks is sidelined. Counsell with also serve as a nice option if Alcides Escobar struggles in his transition to the major leagues.
After Counsell's 2009, I am really surprised how easy it was to retain his services. A two year deal would've been tough to swallow, but Doug Melvin was able to retain Counsell short term, and at a good price. While fans shouldn't expect similar production at the plate this season, Counsell remains a fan favorite and a premier gloveman in baseball.