Milwaukee Brewers: The Brilliance of GM David Stearns
Since becoming Milwaukee’s general manager in September 2015, David Stearns has substantially improved the future outlook of the Brewers. The youngest GM in the MLB certainly has an eye for talent and isn’t afraid to go get it.
Stearns is no stranger to success. He graduated from Harvard University in 2007. The Ivy-League man quickly moved through the ranks of the MLB’s front offices, first working in the MLB’s central office, then moving to the Cleveland Indians where he was named a co-director of baseball operations.
In 2012, the Houston Astros appointed Stearns as their assistant general manager. When the Brewers decided they needed a new general manager in September 2015 they claimed to be looking for someone with youth and experience with data analytics. Stearns was the perfect candidate for the job. On September 21, 2015 the Brewers made Stearns the third youngest general manager in league history at age 30, one year younger than OF Ryan Braun at the time.
Stearns was extremely active from the onset. He quickly fired five of the Brewers’ seven coaches and hired a new assistant general manager from Tampa Bay. During his first offseason in Milwaukee, Stearns replaced half of the members of the Brewers’ 40-man roster.
Here are some of the moves that have stood out in the 15 months that David Stearns has been in charge:
Diamonds in the Rough
Stearns has quite the eye for spotting MLB talent when other people don’t. A few of his free agent acquisitions and trades showcase this ability of his.
In October 2015, Stearns selected starting pitcher Junior Guerra off waivers from the White Sox. In 2016, Guerra exceeded all expectations with a rotation-best 2.81 ERA and 9-3 record in 20 starts. A 31-year-old rookie with a 6.75 ERA in 3 games with the White Sox, Guerra is the last player you’d expect to break out but Stearns saw something in him.
A month after acquiring Guerra off waivers, Stearns made another move that ended up being huge for Milwaukee. Stearns sent P Cy Sneed to the Astros for SS Jonathan Villar. Neither was regarded as a top prospect at the time but it’s pretty apparent now that the Brewers got away with highway robbery. Villar hit .285 in 2016 while leading the MLB in steals with 62. He figures to be a key component of the Brewers’ success moving forward as he is just 25 years old.
In December 2015, Stearns acquired another Brewers’ starter for next to nothing. He sent 1B Jason Rogers to Pittsburgh for CF Keon Broxton. Broxton figures to be Milwaukee’s starting center fielder to open 2017 after his strong second half this past year. After the 2016 All-Star Break, Broxton slashed .294/.399/.538 with 16 stolen bases. The 26-year-old from Florida should make for a solid starter for the Crew or enticing trade bait should the Brewers decide to free up room for their glut of stud outfield prospects.
This past month Stearns has been busy, acquiring two players who figure to be starters on the Brewers’ infield come Opening Day. Stearns signed 1B Eric Thames and traded for 3B Travis Shaw, filling two of the Brewers’ biggest holes on its roster. Both players have question marks but if Stearns’ past moves have taught us anything it’s that these two guys are on the verge of breaking out.
Building Up the Farm System
When Stearns took over as general manager, the Brewers’ farm system was middle-of-the-pack. Now it’s regarded as one of the league’s finest.
Of the Brewers’ Top 10 Prospects, according to Baseball America, Stearns is responsible for acquiring 6 of them.
In his first draft, Stearns added two key players to the Brewers organization – OF Corey Ray and 3B Lucas Erceg. Both players have done well in their time in Minor League and both figure to be key to the Brewers’ success down the road.
Most notable, however, is Stearns’ efforts to strengthen Milwaukee’s farm system through trades. At the trade deadline in August, Stearns shipped C Jonathan Lucroy and RP Jeremy Jeffress to the Rangers in exchange for CF Lewis Brinson and SP Luis Ortiz. Brinson and Ortiz are now the Brewers’ first and third best prospects, respectably. Stearns also traded RP Will Smith to the Giants that deadline for RHP Phil Bickford. Bickford looks to be the future lights-out closer the Brewers so desperately need. In the trades of RP Tyler Thornburg and SS Jean Segura, the Brewers added talented middle-infielders Mauricio Dubon and Isan Diaz to their farm system.
Stearns has done a superb job of flipping Major Leaguers for talented prospects.
Overall, Stearns has significantly increased the talent level of the Milwaukee Brewers since taking over as general manager in the fall of 2015. He’s found diamonds in the rough that have already made an impact at the Major League level and he’s flooded the farm system with talented prospects with shrewd trades. The future of the Milwaukee Brewers looks extremely bright and a lot of that can be credited to the youngest general manager in the MLB, David Stearns.