Brewers contract talks on back burner

Brewers contract talks on back burner

MILWAUKEE -- The Brewers have back-burnered their efforts to sign young players like Corey Hart and Yovani Gallardo to multiyear contracts, but the poor economy is not a factor, according to the team's principal owner.

"We've had conversations with both players and agents and it's a two-way street," Mark Attanasio said Friday before his fifth home opener in Milwaukee. "Players are tending to look at being on the upswing of their careers and we're in a downtown of the economy. That's their choice.

"I'm not saying we're cutting discussions off, because I think we might have discussions with one of those players even as we speak."

Attanasio would not identify the player. Neither would general manager Doug Melvin, who said there had "not really" been contact with Jeff Berry -- the agent for Hart -- or Bobby Witt -- who represents Gallardo -- since those players agreed to their 2009 contracts in February.

"It's not on the agenda," Melvin said. "If we feel there is a point we should talk again, we'll do that. If we do something, it will probably be on the quiet side. That's how Ryan's got done."

That would be Ryan Braun, who agreed to a seven-year extension last May 15 that made him the richest player in franchise history.

It's easier to strike a deal with hitters, Melvin said, because it is easier for both sides to project statistical achievements over future seasons and to come to comparisons with other players. Pitching deals are more dicey, partly because pitchers are more susceptible to injuries.

There are no deadlines to strike deals with any players, Attanasio said.

"We try very hard to have dialogue with our players without setting deadlines. Nobody responds well to deadlines," Attanasio said. "And we have a general manager who is disciplined and doesn't want this to be a distraction. Maybe there is a point where we say, 'Hey, let's just pick this up after the season.'"

Business is good for the Brewers despite the sagging economy, a likely result of the team's 2008 postseason appearance. Ticket sales are up 10 percent over this date last year, Attanasio said. That's encouraging, because even a 13 percent drop in attendance -- from 3 million last year to 2.6 million this year -- would result in about $20 million in losses, Attanasio said.

"We've managed the team on a very prudent basis, fiscally, over the last number of years and have had a huge outpouring of fan support," Attanasio said. "That gives us the ability to take some risk. By the way, if we need to at midseason, we can make some adjustments. We left a little powder dry."

For those who don't have degrees in economics, "dry powder" refers to companies maintaining cash reserves for times when the market is in decline.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.