At the ripe old age of 30 years old, David Stearns—no not the former NBA commissioner David Stern—was named as the new General Manager of the Milwaukee Brewers. Let’s get this out-of-the-way early. He’s young, but he isn’t the youngest to ever hold the position. Theo Epstein (Boston Red Sox) and Jon Daniels (Texas Rangers) were both 28 when they took over as GM for their respective teams.
Stearns graduated from Harvard with a degree in Political Science and spent time with the Pittsburgh Pirates as an intern, the New York Mets in the baseball operations department, Major League Baseball as part of the labor negotiation team, and the Cleveland Indians as director of baseball operations. That covers the general history.
Most recently, Stearns spent time as the Assistant General Manager for the Houston Astros where his stock rose sharply with the surprising success of the Astros in 2015. Houston and the Chicago Cubs took similar paths through rebuilding via bottoming out and building through the draft. One might call it tanking, but it is also the same as selling off everything that won’t help you win when you’re good again and waiting to sign players until your farm system produces some. Tanking, yes, but also a smart use of resources.
What will Stearns bring with him to the Brewers? First, he’s keeping Craig Counsell as the field manager and Doug Melvin as a special assistant to the general manager, probably the cushiest job in sports. Second, I’m sure there will be an agreement between Milwaukee and Houston to keep Stearns from raiding the Astros’ front office.
Baseball Prospectus noted one thing that Stearns will likely bring with him to Milwaukee, a proclivity for the international market. This will be especially useful for the Brewers this off-season and for the time being until what seems to be the inevitable international draft. This interview on Whiskers on a Stache, an Astros blog, quotes Stearns about the international market.
It’s an incredibly important aspect of what we’re trying to do. The new CBA gives advantages to team that finish with poor records and we’re going to have the most money to spend internationally for the 2013 to 2014 signing period. We need to make sure we’re evaluating players internationally in the best possible manner and that we have access to all international talent. That includes Latin America and Asia. That’s something we’re ramping-up right now. We plan to be active in all international markets and procure the absolute best international talent we can.
The question that gave rise to the quote was directly related to an Astros Japan/Pac Rim scouting department, so the interest in the KBO/NPB may be overstated, but he will certainly keep tabs on the league as a way to get under priced talent, if Jung Ho Kang hasn’t ruined that inefficiency already. We could see the Brewers attempt to break into other non-traditional markets. Ones that have become intriguing, but by no means have never been checked out, are Italy and India.
After working under Jeff Luhnow, there should be little doubt that Stearns will likely view the Brewers job as something to build for the future. He has intimate knowledge of a successful rebuild and the NL Central looks to be a tough cookie to crack in the coming seasons. While the Cubs seem to have a stock of young talent to set them up for the long haul, the Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals don’t have quite as rosy a path.1
We’ll quickly see what Stearns plan will be. A player like Jean Segura, who has had a very good bounce back year, would be a very predictable trade piece that could net a very nice return since they already have 16-year-old short stop prospect Gilbert Lara, much closer prospect Orlando Arcia, and current second baseman Luis Sardinas.
Stearns may see the window as 3-4 years down the road and could aim to build through the draft and international signing market . . . if the Brewers ownership group will allow a full rebuild. Something they’ve been wary of green lighting for some time. Hopefully he’s already started using a new password.
The Pirates and Cardinals certainly don’t look bad going forward, but their top players are a bit older than the Cubs ↩