The Milwaukee Brewers search for a new general manager ended on Monday when they officially announced David Stearns as Doug Melvin’s successor. Stearns spent the last three seasons as the assistant General Manager for the Houston Astros, a fact that is exciting for Brewers fans.
The Astros took an unconventional approach to rebuilding under GM Jeff Luhnow. Instead of trying to field a competitive team, Houston went in the opposite direction. They slashed payroll and traded any player that could bring in prospects. This led to a league-low $25 million payroll in 2013 and, unsurprisingly, a 111-loss season. Yet is also led to multiple #1 draft picks and a robust farm system. The approach worked and this season the Astros are poised to make the playoffs for the first time since 2005.
The Brewers, as we all know, are rebuilding. It’s hard to think of a better candidate than someone who played an integral role in one of the most successful turnarounds in MLB history. Stearns also fits the mold of the modern GM.
The current GM archetype is a young, Ivy League graduate who specializes in statistical analysis. At 30-years-old, Stearns is the youngest GM in Major League Baseball. He also graduated from Harvard University and oversaw Houston’s analytics department. While this does not guarantee success, modern baseball is driven by advanced statistics and it’s necessary to have someone in charge who is well versed in sabermetrics. (A scathing report from the Seattle Times in 2013 suggests that Jack Zduriencik’s statistical illiteracy was a major factor in his failed tenure as GM of the Seattle Mariners.)
Of course, there is more to running a baseball team than understanding stats. There’s also the nitty gritty of stuff like contract negotiations and working with the players union. Stearns has experience with labor relations during his tenure with the MLB Office of the Commissioner from 2008-2011.
All signs point to David Stearns being a good choice to replace Doug Melvin. While this might result in a couple of 100-loss seasons, it’s a small price to pay if the end result is an Astros-like turnaround.