Ranking David Stearns’ best 5 moves as Brewers general manager
On Sept. 20, 2015, the Milwaukee Brewers hired 30-year-old David Stearns as their new general manager, bringing in a young, promising executive who had previously served as the assistant GM of the Houston Astros. Now over four years into his regime (entering his fifth full season), Stearns constructed a winning team three times and has led Milwaukee to back-to-back postseason appearances for just the second time in franchise history. So, when we look back in a few decades, which moves will be considered his best? This is what we’ve got four seasons in:
- Getting the most out of veteran pitchers
Whether it’s diving into analytics or just pure luck, one thing Stearns does perhaps better than any other general manager is get value out of veteran players looking for a fresh start. Milwaukee signed Jhoulys Chacin to a two-year deal before the 2018 season and he went on to start a league-high 35 games. Chacin posted a 15-8 record and 3.50 ERA in 192 2/3 innings and was the Brewers’ best pitcher in the postseason (2 ER, 9 K, 12 1/3 IP). Wade Miley was another one of Stearns’ hidden gems. Coming off a disastrous season with Baltimore in 2017 – 8-15 record, 5.61 ERA and career-worst 1.4 HR/9 – Miley was signed to a minor-league deal. Miley got healthy and was arguably Milwaukee’s best pitcher in the second half of the 2018 season, as the Brewers won the last seven games he started. And in 2019, it was acquiring Drew Pomeranz and Jordan Lyles at the trade deadline. Pomeranz was nearly untouchable with his 15.4 K/9 in 26 1/3 innings, and the Brewers won 10 of 11 games Lyles started down the stretch.
- Trading Jonathan Lucroy
Stearns’ first blockbuster move as general manager was shipping Lucroy, sending the two-time All-Star catcher to Texas at the 2016 trade deadline. Over seven seasons in Milwaukee, Lucroy batted .284/.342/.436 with 79 homers and 387 RBI. He hasn’t come close to those numbers since the trade. In fact, he never played a full season for the Rangers. Lucroy hit .242 with just four homers in 47 games with Texas before he was traded to Colorado in 2017. Lucroy has bounced around since then — Texas, Colorado, Oakland, the Los Angeles Angels and the Chicago Cubs — all while hitting .248/.315/.350 from 2017-19. Even better, the Brewers received prospect Lewis Brinson in the transaction, who would go on to be the main piece in the best trade in franchise history. But more on that later …
- Drafting Keston Hiura
With the ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft, Stearns selected Hiura, a slugging infielder who hit .442 for UC-Irvine as a junior. Hiura quickly climbed the ranks in the Brewers farm system and made his MLB debut on May 14, 2019, collecting two hits and a walk in his first four big-league plate appearances. After controversially getting sent down to the minors midway through the season, Hiura rejoined the team in July and finished the 2019 campaign batting .303/.368/.368 with 19 homers and 49 RBI in 84 games. Drafting the second baseman ranks third on our list currently, but this move might be looked upon even fonder in Brewers history if Hiura continues to mash.
- Signing Lorenzo Cain
You may remember the 2018 offseason being a quiet one. MLB teams waited patiently as top guys on the market like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish remained unsigned for months. Well, Stearns made some noise on Jan. 26, 2018 by signing Cain to a five-year deal worth $80 million. Cain, who was selected by Milwaukee in 2004 but traded to Kansas City, was named an All-Star in 2018 after batting .308/.395/.417 and won his first career (and much-deserved) Gold Glove the following season.
- Trading for outfielder Christian Yelich
The best trade in franchise history we were discussing earlier? Yep, right here. Continuing Miami owner Derek Jeter’s fire sale of young talent, the Marlins sent Yelich to the Brewers in exchange for Milwaukee’s top prospect Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz, Monte Harrison and Jordan Yamamoto. You know the rest of the story. The 2018 Most Valuable Player is a two-time defending National League batting champ and has tallied a .327/.415/.631 slash line over 277 games with Milwaukee. He’s also hit the third-most homers (80) of any big-leaguer over the last two seasons. And the best part? Yelich agreed to a seven-year extension before the 2020 season. Well done, Stearns.