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HomeSportDavid Stearns’ Brewers deadline dealings came up short with future in flux

David Stearns’ Brewers deadline dealings came up short with future in flux


Brewers baseball president David Stearns has a well-known contractual feature whereby he can opt out if the Brewers advance in October. And give him this: He wasn’t thinking of himself at the deadline; their moves did little to enhance their chances.

The Brewers were two games up in first place when they traded almost-automatic closer Josh Hader, which immediately depressed the clubhouse. The Brewers have a smart front office, and the trade of a reliever a year from unaffordability, especially after Hader had a couple hiccups in July, made sense. However, they didn’t account for the way the trade impacted the clubhouse, which was exacerbated when their bullpen blew its next two games to the Pirates.

The Brewers compounded that unpopular deal by failing to add an established hitter to fill their most obvious need, despite having budget space. In a fit of bad luck, many hitting options resided on rivals’ rosters — including Willson Contreras and Ian Happ of the Cubs, who’d surely demand a premium from Milwaukee.

They did try for Brandon Drury from the rival Reds but never got “traction,” and also called on Josh Bell, who like Drury went to the uber-active Padres (so did Hader, for Taylor Rogers and three young players). Joc Pederson, who killed the Crew in the Division Series, was a target. But the Giants were caught in the middle and wound up trading no 2022 contributors.

General manager David Stearns of the Milwaukee Brewers talks with manager
David Stearns failed to take the Brewers locker room into account during the MLB trade deadline moves.
Getty Images

Joey Gallo was also discussed, and Milwaukee seemed like a perfect spot. The Brewers came close on a couple fronts. But as one Brewers player said, “Not close enough.”

Stearns, who did later add hard-throwing Matt Bush to mitigate the Hader loss, is operating in one of MLB’s two smallest markets, so he has to get creative. There isn’t much room for emotion in Milwaukee, but in this case perhaps it should have been considered.

Stearns has been a target of Mets owner Steve Cohen, and if they advance (it isn’t confirmed if it’s to the World Series or the NLCS), Stearns can leave Milwaukee. Brewers owner Mark Attanasio didn’t like the big-market Mets trying to raid his front office, and he locked up GM Matt Arnold to keep him, but Stearns’ original deal through 2023 remains.

It’s obvious why Stearns was the apple of Cohen’s eye, as the small-market Brewers consistently contend (assist to predecessor Doug Melvin, there for the acquisitions of Brandon Woodruff, Devin Williams and Hader, plus excellent manager Craig Counsell). The New York City product Stearns, a Harvard grad, also looks great on paper.

With Cohen’s help of course, the Mets had a great winter under GM Billy Eppler. And their deadline dealings look very good now, much better than I predicted — to the point now where the Mets have the second-best record in the sport.

Eppler has the Mets in great position, but it’s worth wondering: Might Cohen consider having two leading men?

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