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Stick the Milwaukee Brewers organization next to your garden variety mom-and-pop business, and it’d be hard to tell the difference.

Such has been the story of the Brew Crew ever since Mark Attanasio bought the team 20 years ago. Milwaukee puts most if not all of its money into player development and does almost nothing in free agency. Once in a while, they’ll trade for a star like Christian Yelich or develop one a la Prince Fielder.

This year is kinda, sorta, maybe-but-not-really an exception. The Brewers aren’t anywhere close to the team that won 92 games and the NL Central in 2023. In a way, they had no choice but to invest in free agents just to keep their leg up in a weak division.

All this said, the division is the Milwaukee Brewers’ for the taking. But if the team regresses, it should be a warning shot across the front office’s bow. Until this team makes a habit of spending serious money when needed, they won’t sniff the World Series.

Greatest Addition: Rhys Hoskins. After ranking 23rd in batting average and 24th in home runs last season, the Brewers made the smart move and added Rhys Hoskins…who missed last year with a torn ACL. The former Phillies first baseman signed a two-year, $34 million contract and mashed 30 home runs in 2022.

Hoskins figures to start immediately and, if healthy, should add plenty of pop to the middle of the lineup. So long as he hits the home runs and takes his walks to counter the high strikeouts, he’ll help Milwaukee stay the course.

Greatest Loss: Craig Counsell. Managers come and go. When Craig Counsell left Milwaukee, it was the end of an era. Counsell, without any prior experience, was promoted to manager from his front office job in 2015 after Ron Roenicke was fired. His 707 wins lead all Brewers skippers.

What’s worse is that Counsell, who grew up near Milwaukee and also played for the Brewers, left to manage the division rival Cubs. Adding insult to injury, Counsell is now the highest-paid manager in baseball with a five-year deal worth over $40 million.

The Brewers did the right thing and just promoted longtime bench coach Pat Murphy, who also coached Counsell at Notre Dame and has 947 NCAA wins to his name. He’ll do an excellent job taking the helm, but even so.

Forget trading former Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes to Baltimore. This is his contract year and that was inevitable. In losing Counsell, the Brewers lost a piece of their history.

Greatest Strength: Jackson Chourio. For someone who’s still only 19 and only played in six Triple-A games, the Brewers are head over heels for Jackson Chourio. So much that general manager Matt Arnold gave him an eight-year, $82 million extension back in December. A pair of options for 2032 and ’33 could increase the contract’s value to over $142 million.

Oh, and this is important. Chourio still hasn’t appeared in a single MLB game. This is unprecedented territory for the Brewers, developing a top talent and then paying them this early. But after watching Chourio hit .376 in Venezuelan winter ball, he might be worth the gamble.

Greatest Weakness: Stingy ownership. It’s like we’ve been saying from the start. The Milwaukee Brewers are a successful baseball organization who have found their own winning formula. Their attendance isn’t among the best, but rarely below the middle of the pack. A particularly good season sometimes pushes the Brewers’ average attendance into the Top 10.

And yet, Attanasio keeps the pursestrings tight. Milwaukee is the farm system, shrewd trades, and minimal free agency.

Win or lose, it’s frustrating to see a team worth upwards of $1.6 billion operate like Ma & Pa’s Homey Hardware Hustle at the corner of Main & Maple, right where the main road starts to lead to the interstate. It can be an absolute difference maker for this team, and yet ownership chooses complacency.

What’s next for the Milwaukee Brewers? We’ll soon know, probably by June. The NL Central is theirs to lose and its hard to see any other team overachieving enough to catch them. Chourio should be a nice add to the lineup as a righty complement to Yelich. If they trade for a pitcher at the deadline, maybe the NLCS is a possibility.

But that’s just it. Whatever the biggest step is to win a championship, the Brewers won’t take it. Not if it costs too much. Unless Arnold and Attanasio start taking more risks, this is the Brewers’ ceiling: Being the most middling of team with mostly middling results.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.