MILWAUKEE -- Randy Wolf understood when Houston pulled a $27 million, three-year offer before last season because of the faltering economy. In the meantime, he made his first postseason appearance and parlayed it into an even bigger contract from the Brewers.
"If I were there, I wouldn't have the opportunity to sign here," Wolf said of his rocky offseason last year. "I think things have a way of ending up in the right way."
The 33-year-old left-hander finalized his $29.75 million, three-year contract with Milwaukee, which also re-signed Craig Counsell to a $2.1 million deal Monday. The Brewers also have a preliminary one-year agreement with reliever Claudio Vargas, a deal pending a physical.
Wolf is the big offseason acquisition for the Brewers, and general manager Doug Melvin said they wanted to be aggressive early in the offseason to fill their needs instead of waiting.
But, he had to get to know Wolf first, so he traveled to Los Angeles just before the winter meetings along with owner Mark Attanasio.
"The only thing I knew about Randy was that he looked like Geoff Jenkins," Melvin joked. "With that said, we had a nice visit out there. ... It worked out very well."
Wolf went 11-7 with a 3.23 ERA in 34 starts for the Los Angeles Dodgers last season after agreeing to a $5 million, one-year contract 1˝ months after the Astros pulled their offer, citing a poor economy. Wolf went on to make an extra $3 million in performance bonuses with L.A.
He had initially expressed some disappointment with the Dodgers failure to seriously pursue him, but said he had an open mind throughout the process.
"I wasn't set on going back to L.A. When the Brewers came out very early and showed me that I was a priority this offseason, I looked at them a lot closer and realized this would be a great fit for me," Wolf said. "As I thought about it more and more it became more and more exciting. I was really happy when things got worked out and I became a Brewer."
The Brewers have made starting pitching a priority after finishing last season 80-82 and posting the highest ERA among starters in the majors at 5.37. Wolf said he thinks the staff will have a big turnaround.
"When I look at last year and how it went for the starting staff, I don't see how it could possibly happen again. When you look at it, you had some good pitchers that had some really bad years," he said. "I think I can help this staff, but I think the guys that are on the staff can do a much better job and they will do a much better job."
Wolf is expected to be behind young right-hander Yovani Gallardo at the top of the rotation. He gets $9.25 million next year and $9.5 million in each of the following two seasons. The deal includes a $10 million club option for 2013 with a $1.5 million buyout.
He can make an additional $250,000 a year in performance bonuses: $125,000 each for 190 and 200 innings. He has a limited no-trade clause and would get $250,000 each time he's dealt.
Still, he said before he agreed to a contract, he talked to closer Trevor Hoffman about coming to Milwaukee to make sure it was the right fit.
"I knew he was going to give me a true, honest opinion," Wolf said.
Wolf is 101-85 with a 4.13 ERA in 11 major league seasons with Philadelphia, Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston. The New York Mets also were interested in trying to sign him.
Counsell, who made $1 million last year, played in 130 games last season and batted .285 with four homers and 39 RBIs.
The 39-year-old Counsell can earn $500,000 in performance bonuses: $50,000 each for 50, 75, 90 and 110 games, and $100,000 each for 125 games and 75 and 100 starts.
Melvin said it was important to bring back Counsell, who lives in the Milwaukee suburb of Whitefish Bay, because second baseman Rickie Weeks is returning from wrist surgery and rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar will be a starter.
"People might talk about his age, but he had one heck of a year last year both offensively and defensively," Melvin said. "We're fortunate to be able to have him come back here, I think it's another sign again, how sincere we are about winning and Craig at this stage of his career wanting to be here, too."