MLB: Rating the front offices of the NL Central

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 28: Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations of the Chicago Cubs at a press conference introducing David Ross as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 28, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - OCTOBER 28: Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations of the Chicago Cubs at a press conference introducing David Ross as the new manager of the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field on October 28, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /
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(Dylan Buell/Getty Images)
(Dylan Buell/Getty Images) /

Milwaukee Brewers

David Stearns, president of baseball operations: -4.2

Stearns gave it the old college try. Coming off consecutive playoff seasons – both of which Stearns’ moves had a substantial hand in creating – he shuffled 41 players who impacted the 2020 Brewers’ fortunes.

This time, however, Stearns’ luck wore out. Twenty-four of those moves resulted in damage to the Brewers’ abilities. His team struggled home under .500 and in fourth place in the NL Central and only made the playoffs thanks to the expanded system in place in 2020.

If Stearns could live one day over, it would probably be Nov. 27, 2019. That’s when he worked a trade in which Padres general manager A.J. Preller fleeced him big-time. Stearns sent outfielder Trent Grisham and pitcher Zach Davies to the Padres for pitcher Eric Lauer and infielder Luis Urias.

Davies and Grisham combined to generate 2.7 WAA toward the Padres’ post-season run. Lauer (0-2, 13.09) and Urias (.239 in 120 plate appearances) combined for a -1.1 WAA in Milwaukee. In that single trade, Milwaukee’s fortunes sank by nearly four games.

The offset was the development of pitcher Corbin Burnes. In his first season as a full-time starter, Burnes became the team ace, going 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA in nine starts. That was worth 1.7 WAA to Milwaukee.

Unfortunately, Burnes was the only asset coming to fruition for Stearns in 2020. It was such a snakebit year that even the extension he gave to Christian Yelich – nine years, $215 million – backfired when Yelich batted only .205.

Center fielder Lorenzo Cain chose to sit out the season due to COVID, so Stearns went out after Avisail Garcia as the best available replacement. Garcia turned in -0.9. Free agents Justin Smoak (-0.9), Brock Holt (-0.7), and Eric Sogard (-0.7) all also backfired.

Here is the annual short-term performance rating of the Brewers front office since Stearns took over prior to the 2016 season:

  • 2016:     +   4.9
  • 2017:     +   2.6
  • 2018:     +10.2*
  • 2019:     +  5.8*
  • 2020:     –   4.2

*This was a greater improvement than the margin by which the Brewers qualified for post-season play.