MILWAUKEE -- Calling it "the easiest decision I've had to make over the past year," Brewers general manager David Stearns on Friday announced a three-year contract extension for home-grown manager Craig Counsell that runs through 2020.The deal removed Counsell's "lame-duck" status entering 2017 -- the final season of the three-year contract he signed after taking over for Ron Roenicke in May 2015. It gave the 46-year-old Counsell, who grew up in Milwaukee rooting for the Brewers and later played for them, additional job security as the franchise plows forward in its rebuild.
"We still have a big challenge in front of us," Counsell said, "and I feel like I get to see it through."The Brewers are 135-165 since Counsell took over as field manager, a change that marked the start of a full-scale rebuild and preceded the transition from longtime general manager Doug Melvin to Stearns. In 2016, the team surpassed owner Mark Attanasio's expectations by going 73-89 -- an improvement of five wins from the year before despite the continued departure of established players, including catcher Jonathan Lucroy and relievers Jeremy Jeffress and Will Smith via midseason trades.In September, Attanasio praised Counsell's role in breakout seasons for players like infielder Jonathan Villar, and said signing Counsell to an extension would be high on Stearns' offseason list of priorities. "I don't feel like I've accomplished much in this job yet," Counsell said. "There's a lot to do, still. I'm interested in performing. That's what's next. I'm not good at looking back, I'm not good at getting nostalgic. I think I am good at looking forward and trying to figure out how to make the next good decision, and that's what we'll try to do." Counsell was born in South Bend, Ind., but he grew up in the Milwaukee area. His father, John, worked in the Brewers' front office, running the club's speakers bureau and later serving as director of community relations, posts that afforded Craig the opportunity to grow up around the best teams in franchise history, led by Robin Yount and Paul Molitor. Counsell's Major League career brought him home in December 2003, when he was part of a blockbuster trade that sent slugger Richie Sexson to the D-backs. Counsell played two stints with his hometown team ('04, '07-11) and he was part of both of the Brewers' playoff teams in the Miller Park era, in '08 and '11. Stearns said the extension "cements the continuity of leadership throughout the organization," though he declined to say whether his own contract now coincides with Counsell's. As a matter of policy, Stearns said, the Brewers do not make public the terms of front-office contracts. "We felt [three more years] was the right timeframe," said Stearns. The Brewers have already announced that their Major League coaching staff will return intact, with the exception of video coordinator and coaching assistant Joe Crawford, who left the organization for a job close to his Ohio home. "There's peaks and valleys to this process," Counsell said. "That's part of it -- and actually a fun part of it. You're part of all those decisions. That's where I think this [extension] takes it. It's not going to change the next decision that I have to make, but I know that we're going to go through some peaks and valleys, and we're going to come out on the other side and be in the right place." Adam McCalvy /MLB.com