Formally introduced Monday by the club, David Stearns will become the Milwaukee Brewers’ ninth general manager on Oct. 5.
Stearns served as Houston Astros assistant GM under Jeff Luhnow over the last three seasons, which saw the club go from a franchise-worst 51-111 record in 2013 to becoming a playoff contender this season. As Stearns’ arrival ushers in a new era of baseball in Milwaukee, here are five things to know:
1. Youngest GM in Major League Baseball
Born after the Brewers’ only World Series appearance, the 30-year-old Stearns is MLB’s youngest GM. Stearns’ hiring reflects a trend toward younger general managers, with Theo Epstein and Jon Daniels each having been 28 when they took over the same positions for the Boston Red Sox and Texas Rangers.
Other GMs younger than 40 include: Farhan Zaidi (Los Angeles Dodgers), A.J. Preller (San Diego Padres), Milwaukee native Jeff Bridich (Colorado Rockies), Matt Silverman (Tampa Bay Rays), Alex Anthopoulos (Toronto Blue Jays) and Daniels.
Seven players on the Brewers’ 40-man roster are 30 or older: Cesar Jimenez (30), Nevin Ashley (31), Matt Garza (31), Ryan Braun (31), Adam Lind (32), Francisco Rodriguez (33) and Kyle Lohse (36). Brewers manager Craig Counsell, 45, was in high school when his new boss was born.
2. Ivy League background
As a 2007 Harvard graduate, Stearns follows another trend in baseball GMs. He is one of seven Ivy League GMs in MLB, joining Daniels, Silverman, Luhnow, Bridich and Preller. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio, with degrees from Brown University and Columbia Law School, also has an Ivy League background.
While Stearns said Monday that he wasn’t sure there’s a correlation between Ivy League education and GM qualifications, it seems to connect with the trend toward analytics within the sport. Stearns suggested that it may have more to do with business acumen and he’s probably right, but it clearly doesn’t hurt to have that Ivy League background.
3. He’s done this before
The Brewers are in the middle of rebuilding, a process with which Stearns has experience.
When he arrived in Houston in 2012, the Astros were in the middle of three straight 100-loss seasons, as Luhnow gutted the team for a complete rebuild. The Astros focused heavily on rebuilding the young core of their team and it worked, faster than anticipated. Projected as contenders in ’16 or ’17, the Astros have been one of baseball’s biggest surprises this season.
Stearns’ experience with rebuilding in Houston should pay dividends for the same process in Milwaukee. While there’s no guarantee the Brewers will enjoy the same sort of success in rebuilding the roster and stocking the farm system with talent, Stearns should have some knowledge on how to do it. Equally important, he should be comfortable with the difficult process and won’t shy away from favoring long-term value over short-term success.
4. Extensive MLB experience
Despite his young age, the Brewers were highly impressed with Stearns’ experience, and with good reason.
While attending Harvard, Stearns interned with the Pittsburgh Pirates’ front office. After graduating, he worked in the baseball operations departments for the New York Mets and the Arizona Fall League. Stearns followed that with three years in the Commissioner’s Office, assisting clubs with contract negotiations, the salary arbitration process and draft signings.
Stearns went from New York to Cleveland, where he was the Indians’ director of baseball operations. After a year there, he moved into his role as assistant GM for the Astros. Youth and experience are valued commodities, and Stearns has plenty of both.
5. Grew up a Mets fan
Speaking of the Mets, Stearns knows a little about them as well. If nothing else, that should give him a sense of what it’s like to go decades without winning a World Series.
Having grown up in New York City, Stearns grew up an “enormous” Mets fan. He toldESPN’s Buster Olney that some of his greatest baseball memories involved riding the 7 train from Manhattan out to Shea Stadium in Flushing, N.Y. He “fell in love with the game” there and “wanted to do anything I could to stay involved for as long as I could.”
Stearns, a self-described “all-field, no-hit shortstop” growing up, chose Kevin Elster as his favorite player in the late ’80s and early ’90s. Among his most memorable games at Shea Stadium is Sept. 21, 2001, the first game following the Sept. 11 attacks.
No one in Milwaukee has benefited more from Gerardo Parra’s departure than Khris Davis.
In the month of August, he’s been crushing the ball, hitting nine home runs, achieving something no Brewers player had since September 2011. Prince Fielder hit nine that month, and 10 in June 2011, while Ryan Braun had 10 in April 2011. Since, the club hadn’t seen a hitter with more than eight homers in a single month.
Braun hit eight in three different months (May, June and August) of 2012, while Aramis Ramirez and Rickie Weeks had eight apiece in August and September in 2012, respectively. While Fielder’s 13-homer May 2007 likely is out of reach, Davis still has a few days to put up the Brewers’ first 11-home run month since 2009.
Davis’ big month has been powered by three multi-homer games. The last Brewers player with three in a month was Braun in May 2008.
Starting every game since July 30, Davis has been one of the Brewers’ hottest hitters over the last three weeks after struggling to open the second half. Davis batted just .160/.246/.240 from July 10 through Aug. 4, hitting one home run with seven RBIs and nearly three times as many strikeouts (22) as hits (8). Over the next 17 games, he hit .274/.333/.742 with 15 runs scored, 17 hits and 19 RBIs.
Though the pace is clearly unsustainable, Davis’ performance over that stretch translates to 86 home runs and 182 RBIs over 162 games.
Davis continues to strike out a lot — 27 times in the first 22 games this month — but you’re going to have that with any power hitter. The key is for Davis to offset it with doubles and home runs. While the latter have been coming in bunches, the former remain few and fair between.
Among players with 16 or more home runs this season, only five — Luis Valbuena, Giancarlo Stanton, Hanley Ramirez, Welington Castillo and Steven Souza — have fewer doubles than Davis’ 13. The leader among that group is Todd Frazier, with 38 doubles.
Still, given the chance to play every day, Davis is showing the value he can bring to the Brewers as a starter. It’s hard to keep that kind of power out of the lineup.
As longtime Brewers general manager Doug Melvin steps aside, let’s take a look at the best moves of his tenure.
Melvin made a number of blockbuster deals while in Milwaukee, including trades that brought CC Sabathia and Zack Greinke to town and others that sent Carlos Lee, Nelson Cruz and Brett Lawrie packing. Aside from a couple, there’s a fine line between his best moves and worst.
• Trading for CC Sabathia: This seems like a no-brainer, but at the time it looked like the Brewers had given up a lot for a rental. That was true, but in return they got one of the most dominant half seasons by any pitcher in the last decade. Sabathia went 9-2 with seven complete games and three shutouts over 17 starts for the Brewers, posting a 4.9 WAR.
While he may have run out of gas in the postseason, Sabathia undoubtedly carried the Brewers to the 2008 wild card. His celebration of the playoff-clinching out on Sept. 28, 2008, goes down as one of the most iconic images in franchise history.
• Trading for Zack Greinke: With as much as they gave up, you could make an argument for putting this trade in the worst moves category and you wouldn’t be wrong. But this was about winning now and Greinke gave the Brewers what they needed.
Greinke anchored the rotation and served as a much-needed ace for the Brewers. He helped lead Milwaukee to a franchise-record 96 wins and their first National League Central title. Though they fell short of the World Series, without Greinke that team may not have even made the playoffs.
• J.J. Hardy for Carlos Gomez trade: This looked like a perfect match for both sides, but in the end, the Brewers clearly got the better end of the deal. Hardy spent just one season with the Twins, posting a 1.3 WAR over 101 games. Gomez, on the other hand, filled a long-term need in Milwaukee.
He took some time to figure things out, but once he did Gomez became one of the best players in baseball. Over 51/2 seasons, Gomez posted a 19.9 WAR as a two-time all-star with the Brewers while playing gold-glove defense in center field.
• Signing Jeff Suppan: As good as Melvin was in trades, he didn’t enjoy nearly as much success in free-agent pitching signings. Suppan is the poster child for what can and often does go wrong when signing aging veteran starting pitchers. The Brewers needed someone to help bolster their rotation, but Suppan was not the way to go.
The only thing worse than his -0.7 WAR over over 110 games in four years is the fact the Brewers continued to send Suppan out there every fifth day for so long. Game 4 of the 2008 NLDS epitomizes the mistake that was the Suppan era in Milwaukee. With the Brewers facing elimination, Suppan got the start and lasted just three innings before giving up five runs.
• Trading away Carlos Lee/Nelson Cruz: For the most part, the criticism of this trade is unfairly based on the benefit of hindsight. With Cruz putting up 11.8 WAR over eight years for the Rangers, it looks like Melvin got absolutely fleeced in the deal. In reality, even the Rangers had little idea Cruz would would develop into the four-time all-star he has become.
The real problem was how much the Brewers overpaid for such a lackluster return. Closer Francisco Cordero was the best of their return that also included Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix. Selling rental players unlikely to re-sign doesn’t give a GM much leverage, but that doesn’t excuse giving up so much for so little in return.
• Hiring Ken Macha: After reaching the playoffs a year earlier, ‘09 and ‘10 were lost years for the Brewers, thanks in part to the hiring of Macha as manager. It’s hard to blame much of a team’s success or failure on the manager, but looking back it’s also hard not to wonder what might have been with someone else at the helm.
When the faces of the franchise — Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder — clash with the man in charge, it should come as no surprise that things don’t go well. Macha’s old-school, businesslike approach didn’t mix with the younger makeup of the club. Sure, the Brewers may not have had the pitching to contend during those years, but having Macha in charge didn’t help their cause.
Not trading with the New York Mets may prove to be the best move the Milwaukee Brewers made last week. But the moves they did make weren’t bad, either.
When the Mets decided against acquiring Carlos Gomez for Zach Wheeler and Wilmer Flores, it opened the door for the Brewers to complete an even bigger — and better — deal, sending Gomez and Mike Fiers to the Houston Astros. They got four top prospects in return, who rank second (Brett Phillips), fourth (Domingo Santana), 15th (Josh Hader) and 28th (Adrian Houser) on the Brewers’ top prospect list.
They followed that up by dealing outfielder Gerardo Parra to the Baltimore Orioles for right-hander Zach Davies, who ranks 11th on the list, right behind 2014 first-round pick Kodi Medeiros. That’s four top-15 prospects acquired in less than 24 hours.
Phillips, a 21-year-old five-tool outfielder, ranks 39th overall in MLB.com’s top 100 prospects. He was the Astros’ minor league player of the year last season and has started to show more power over the last two years. He’s having an excellent 2015 season, hitting .317/.377/.543 with 16 home runs, 71 RBIs and 15 stolen bases over 101 games at Classes A and AA. He could start in center field within a couple of years, or slide over to right field with his well-above-average arm.
Santana, a boom-or-bust-type power hitter, ranks 87th overall among MLB prospects and has enough raw power to drive the ball out of the park in any direction. He’s hitting .322/.424/.574 with 16 home runs and 63 RBIs over 78 games at Class AAA. A likely September callup candidate, Santana also has a strong arm in the outfield.
In Hader, Davies and Houser, the Brewers brought in three starters that could be part of the rotation in the near future. None of them profile as front-of-the-rotation starters, but they could fit in well as Nos. 3, 4 or 5 starters, and add to a pretty good haul for general manager Doug Melvin and the Brewers.
In trading away Gomez, Fiers and Parra, they brought back five upper-level prospects that could be integral pieces of the team within a couple of years. Most important, they didn’t go for the quick fix.
Yes, they acquired players that are mostly just a year or two from the majors, but the Brewers showed they’re committed to a rebuild. These aren’t proven players they’re bringing back. These are high-upside prospects that they’ll look to develop into major league stars in the next couple years.
This team hasn’t been close to contending this season and likely won’t next year. But come 2017 or ’18, these deals could have them right back in the National League Central race.
After a terrible start to the season, the Milwaukee Brewers were expected to be big sellers. That no longer appears as likely.
Sure, they dealt third baseman Aramis Ramirez to the Pirates, and outfielder Gerardo Parra will find a new home soon enough. But both are obvious trade candidates with expiring contracts.
It appears the Brewers aren’t yet ready to give up on 2016.
If the Brewers intended to embark on a full rebuild, they’d recognize the unlikelihood of contending in 2016, and therefore, the lack of value in holding onto a player that will leave after next season. Even with his team-friendly contract, Carlos Gomez is worth more to the Brewers long term in a trade than in their lineup.
Instead, the Brewers appear unlikely to trade the center fielder unless they’re “blown away” by an offer.
The Brewers should absolutely hold out for the best possible deal in their situation. The market for hitters appears strong and Gomez is one of the best available. There’s little to gain by pulling the trigger before they’re sure they’ve gotten the best deal.
But there is plenty to gain by trading Gomez now rather than waiting until the offseason.
With his combination of speed, power and defense, Gomez would be a significant upgrade for a number of contenders. A team acquiring the 29-year-old now could plug Gomez into their lineup for the 2015 pennant race as well as all of next season.
Waiting until the offseason could change that market, while also reducing the Brewers’ potential return. Injury and performance concerns can’t be ruled out, and if Gomez is affected by either, it could lower his value.
Considering the Brewers are at least a couple of years from seriously contending, there’s little reason not to capitalize now. Interest is high, and not just among contenders.
The Brewers may not be blown away by any offers this week, but they’ll get some good ones. Send Gomez to the highest bidder.
This is the team the Milwaukee Brewers expected. It just came a few months too late.
After a mediocre start to the season, the Brewers entered Wednesday as one of the hottest teams in baseball. No team has won more games since June 23, and their 17-6 mark ranks second only to the Los Angeles Angels, by one loss. Going back over their last 30 games, the Brewers’ 18-12 record is third overall and tied for first in the NL.
The hot streak has been powered in large part by a much-improved offense. Over the last month, the Brewers own an MLB-leading .298 average and .364 on-base percentage, while their .463 slugging percentage and 127 runs rank second. They’ve also slugged 26 home runs and tallied 45 doubles, both second-best in the NL.
Gerardo Parra has led the way, putting up a slash line of .373/.424/.687 as one of baseball’s hottest hitters. He’s also hit five home runs, seven doubles and two triples, while scoring 19 runs and driving in 12. With just over a week until the July 31 deadline, Parra quickly has become one of the Brewers’ best trade pieces.
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Brewers pitchers have been similarly strong, ranking sixth with a 2.91 ERA while holding opposing hitters to a .230 average.
There’s just one major problem: the Brewers still are far from contending for a playoff spot. Between their terrible start (16-34) and the toughest division in baseball, even the wild card remains wishful thinking.
Despite going 26-18 since May 31, Milwaukee has actually lost ground in the division race, going from 161/2 games to 171/2 back. They’ve fared slightly better in the wild card race, gaining two games and moving to nine back.
Much of this problem lies within the NL Central.
Over the last 50 games, the top four teams in the NL are the Pirates (33-17), Cardinals (32-18), Brewers (26-24) and Cubs (26-24). Since May 31, three of MLB’s top five come from the Central, with the Cubs close behind in eighth.
Make no mistake, the Brewers’ hot streak is a good thing. It improves trade value and increases fan interest in coming out to the ballpark.
One great month just isn’t enough to save this season.
Win or lose, Milwaukee fans have fun at Miller Park. But the lose option has been more frequent than usual lately.
In fact, poor play at home is almost entirely to blame for the Brewers’ lost season. While they’ve gone 22-24 on the road, they have just 16 wins in 44 home games.
No team has won fewer games at home this season, with only the Rangers matching them at 16, but in two fewer games. The average home record among MLB teams is 24-20, putting the Brewers eight games off the pace. Their road record, on the other hand, is a game better than the league average mark of 20-24.
Since opening Miller Park in 2001, the Brewers have gone 609-569 (.517) there, with seven seasons each above and below .500. Their best home mark came in 2011 at 57-24, while their worst was a pair of 31-50 years in 2002 and 2003.
So, what’s the problem with the Brewers at home?
It starts with the 72 home runs they’ve given up, which is 14 more than any other team. Their 46 home runs ranks fifth in the National League offensively, but that’s still a 26-home run gap in 44 home games. By contrast, they’ve allowed just 28 home runs on the road, the second-fewest total in MLB. With 38 offensive homers, that gives the Brewers a 10-home run advantage away from home.
As for runs scored, the Brewers have a 186-177 advantage on the road, while being outscored 232-174 at home. They’ve also been outhit 412-352 at home while holding a 412-388 edge on the road. Across the board, the numbers show a similar trend.
The cause of this discrepency is unclear, but a trip to Miller Park is no longer as likely to end in a win.