The Brewers continue to receive a bargain bin price on Craig Counsell. Counsell, a native son of Milwaukee suburb Whitefish Bay, WI, will return to the Brewers on a 2.1 million dollar contract for 2010.
Counsell put up one of the best seasons of his 15 year career in 2009. An injury to Rickie Weeks and ineffectiveness by Bill Hall forced Counsell into nearly everyday action until the Brewers acquired Felipe Lopez in late July. In 459 PAs, Counsell posted a .336 wOBA and a 107 wRC+, his first above average season since 2001.
Of course, players in their late 30s don’t typically have career seasons without some luck involved, and Counsell will turn 40 in August. Much of Counsell’s productivity came from a .321 BABIP, and so despite a six percent drop in walk rate, his on-base percentage still was over .350. His .124 ISO, the highest mark of his career, suggests an increase in power, which is possible given that Counsell changed some facets of his approach – most notably, his signature crazy batting stance is now much more normal.
Counsell will likely regress offensively, and any team with intent to sign him knew this. What is attractive about Counsell is his prowess with the glove. Counsell continued to defy age as he posted a 6.4 UZR between 2B, 3B, and SS, and was average or better at each. His UZR has never been below average in his career, and it would be remiss to expect a sudden drop in fielding at this point in his career, as he has shown no signs of decline whatsoever.
Counsell is not the 3 win player that last year suggests. However, as an extremely versatile defender who can step into any non-1B infield role and produce at a 1.5-2.5 win per 600 PA level, Counsell is well worth the 2.1 million dollar contract that he signed for.