Brewers president of baseball operations David Stearns steps down

Shocked but not surprised.

David Stearns announced on Thursday that he is stepping down as president of baseball operations; GM Matt Arnold will assume the lead role of baseball operations.

Stearns had a successful tenure as Brewers executive; capturing two NL Central crowns and four straight playoff appearances from 2018-2021. The Brewers had a remarkable run of success going 554-479 (.536).

When Stearns arrived this was a floundering ball club under former GM Doug Melvin. The Brewers hadn’t been to playoffs since 2011 and hadn’t been to the World Series since 1982 but Stearns had an idea of how to fix the Brewers.

Stearns brought in his analytics vision and it took a couple of years for it to come to fruition but there was two important days that led Milwaukee to go on a run of success.

January 25, 2018, Milwaukee executed a trade for Miami Marlins outfielder Christian Yelich for four prospects (Lewis Brinson, Isan Diaz Monte Harrison and Jordan Yamamoto. Yelich went on to win NL MVP that season hitting .326, 36 homers and 110 RBIs.

The next day, Stearns signed free agent outfielder Lorenzo Cain to a five-year $80 million to return to Milwaukee where he started his career. Cain that season, hit .290 with eight home runs, 26 RBIs and 15 stolen bases, and was named to the 2018 MLB All-Star Game.

Stearns also built one of the best starting rotations in baseball with guys like Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff Freddy Peralta Eric Lauer and Adrian Houser.

Criticisms of Stearns:

While Stearns did many good things for the Brewers, there was several reasons why Milwaukee fell short of capturing a World Series.

Bullpen: The first three years of Stearns’ tenure, the bullpen was rock solid but the last four Milwaukee slipped to the middle-of-the-pack in terms of bullpen ERA. The main reason is when you’re asking relatively unknown guys to shutdown an offense for three-four innings that’s a lot of pressure especially if the offense isn’t doing its part. That was the problem with Milwaukee is that in Stearns’ first three years, he had guys like Corey Knebel, Josh Hader and Jeremy Jeffress to eat up late-inning relief appearances but towards the end they didn’t have that.

Offense was never good enough:

What does every team that goes to the World Series have? A lineup that will strike fear into the opposing pitcher and Milwaukee hasn’t had that in awhile. Sure, Rowdy Tellez and Willy Adames are nice hitters but do they strike into an opposing pitcher like prime Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder did? No. This is what I like to call a Moneyball lineup which is a rag-tag group of nice hitters, but none that will scare you once the postseason starts.

Stearns was too aggressive at the deadline:

Let’s go back to 2018, Milwaukee was in the middle of pennant race when they second baseman traded Jonathan Villar for Jonathan Schoop. Schoop was traded in hopes that he could help our offensive output become even stronger instead, he contributed very little to the Brewers, hitting .202 and not getting a hit in his eight postseason at-bats. Villar meanwhile, was a respected clubhouse presence and I felt like Milwaukee could have used Villar especially in the playoffs when it came time to pinch-run.

Daniel Norris:

On July 30, 2021, Milwaukee acquired Norris from the Tigers for minor-leaguer Reese Olson. Norris appeared in 18 games for Milwaukee and compiled a 6.64 ERA in 2013 innings. This was the worst trade in the David Stearns era.

The infamous Josh Hader trade:

I still don’t understand why they made this trade.

Yes Hader was going to be more expensive as he was set to make $16 million before becoming a free agent the next season, but you don’t trade your best closer in the middle of a pennant race for guys who let’s be honest weren’t any better than the guys in our bullpen. The Josh Hader trade contributed to the Brewers second-half collapse and angered many in the Brewers organization and fanbase.

Overall, Stearns left Milwaukee in a better position than he found it, and turned the Brewers into a perennial playoff contender over the past four seasons. Stearns will likely find another executive position elsewhere and when he does Milwaukee should thank him for all the great work he did to turn a small-market team into a team that we can be proud of. With that I want to say:

Thank you David Stearns for a job well done, and want to welcome Matt Arnold into a new era of Brewers baseball I’m sure you’ll bring a World Series back to Milwaukee.

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