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Counsell, Weathers join free-agent pool

Counsell, Weathers join free-agent pool

MILWAUKEE -- Brewers infielder Craig Counsell and reliever David Weathers were among the 31 players who formally filed for free agency on Monday.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin wouldn't say which of his free agents the team would attempt to re-sign, but Counsell is a solid guess. He turned 39 in August, but in 2009 he had his best season since he helped the Arizona Diamondbacks win the 2001 World Series, batting .285 in with 34 extra-base hits, a .357 on-base percentage and a .408 slugging percentage.

He also went 5-for-16 as a pinch-hitter and started at least 19 games at three infield positions, making him a valuable bench option for manager Ken Macha. Counsell could pair with versatile right-handed hitter Adam Heether, who was added earlier Monday to the Brewers' 40-man roster, as a solid lefty-righty pair of reserve infielders in 2010.

Asked last week whether he was in talks with any of the Brewers' free agents about a return, Melvin was coy.

"We've had discussions," he said. "I don't want to say which players we've had discussions with."

Counsell signed a one-year, $1 million contract to return to the Brewers prior to last season. He underwent arthroscopic knee surgery last month, but he should be 100 percent well ahead of Spring Training.

Weathers' filing was a formality, since the Brewers declined his $3.7 million club option last week. He split the 2009 season between Cincinnati and Milwaukee, going 4-6 with a 3.92 ERA in 68 games. After an Aug. 9 trade to the Brewers, he was 1-3 with a 4.88 ERA while appearing in 25 of the team's final 51 games. The Brewers sent cash to the Reds after the season to complete the trade.

Weathers is a Type B free agent, but the Brewers would have to offer him arbitration in order to reap a compensatory Draft pick should he sign elsewhere. That would be tricky, because Weathers earned $3.5 million in 2009 and would almost certainly get a raise in arbitration if he accepted the offer.

Five other Brewers filed for free agency last week, leaving pitcher Claudio Vargas as the only eligible player yet to submit his paperwork. Fellow pitcher Braden Looper remains in limbo while the Brewers decide whether to exercise their half of his $6.5 million mutual option. The team has until Saturday to do so.

Monday marked the fifth day of the 15-day period in which eligible players may give notice of their election of free agency. To date, 151 Major League players have filed.

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

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