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Crew finalizes one-year deal with Counsell

Crew finalizes deal with Counsell

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MILWAUKEE -- Craig Counsell owed it to his family to take the best deal, even if it meant leaving his hometown team. When his hometown team offered what he was looking for, the choice became simple.

Counsell and the Brewers finalized a $2.1 million, one-year contract on Monday that ensured that the veteran infielder will play half his games within a bike ride of his suburban Milwaukee home. Counsell, who will turn 40 next August, projects to be the team's primary backup infielder and first bat off the bench.

Counsell has played the past three seasons for the Brewers and also was on the team in 2004. He earned a $1 million base salary plus $400,000 in incentives in 2009 on a one-year contract.

"There were more choices than last year, for sure, but in the end this was the best deal," Counsell said. "I want to keep playing. I think I'm going strong. In the end, this was the best thing for both sides."

Counsell batted .285 for the Brewers in 2009 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 in his best all-around season since 2001, when Counsell played for a D-backs club that won the World Series.

Counsell credited Brewers hitting coach Dale Sveum with helping him to remake his signature swing. He lowered the position of his hands, and the power followed.

"The adjustments I made were huge. In a lot of ways I felt like a different offensive player," Counsell said. "Now the challenge is to do it again, or to improve on it, really."

He's an important piece for the Brewers, who will feature an injury-prone second baseman in Rickie Weeks, a rookie shortstop in Alcides Escobar and a second-year third baseman in Casey McGehee. All three of those players are right-handed hitters, while Counsell is a lefty.

According to the Associated Press, Counsell can earn $500,000 more in incentives: $50,000 each for 50, 75, 90 and 110 games, and $100,000 each for 125 games and 75 and 100 starts.

"We need Craig on this ballclub," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "He had an outstanding year last year and with us going young at shortstop with Alcides Escobar and with Rickie coming back from injury, it was very important to have Craig a part of the ballclub for next year. A lot of people might talk about his age, but he had one heck of a year last year, both offensively and defensively."

Counsell wouldn't name the other clubs that inquired about his services, but hinted that some were offering more than the straight, one-year deal he got from the Brewers.

"In the end, we decided to take the best one-year deal," Counsell said. "That's what we got."

Counsell was one of two signings for the organization on Monday. The team also finalized its deal with free-agent starter Randy Wolf, who inked a three-year contract after passing a physical.

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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