David Stearns is stepping down as president of baseball operations for the Brewers, but will remain with the club in an advisory capacity, the team announced. General Manager Matt Arnold will now oversee the baseball operations department.
It’s a surprise shakeup at the top of the Brewers’ baseball operations department, as Stearns has built a reputation as one of baseball’s most respected executives in the game since taking the reins in Milwaukee. He had been under contract throughout the 2023 season.
“It’s not an easy decision for me and it’s something I’ve struggled with for a long time,” Stearns said in a prepared statement. “[Owner] Mark Attanasio and I had an open dialogue and we both knew this day could possibly come. It has been a priority for both of us that any transition takes place while the organization is in a healthy position with strong leadership and a talented roster going forward. This is certainly the case today. »
“I am very grateful to Mark and all of our staff for their support and efforts throughout my tenure with the Brewers,” Stearns continued. Mast [Arnold] and I both arrived in 2015 and he is more than ready for this next opportunity. I am committed to serving as a resource to Matt as he sees fit as the organization goes through this transition.
Of course, the announcement will spark immediate speculation as to whether Stearns might ultimately be heading elsewhere. The team noted that he will serve the property and baseball operations department as an advisor, and Stearns himself suggests in those comments that he will stay with the organization for now to help guide Arnold and d others through the transition. Nonetheless, his departure from such a prominent role could pave the way for his eventual departure.
For example, the Mets sued Stearns, a New York native, for their vacant position as president of baseball operations in each of the past two offseasons, but were denied permission to interview him. Mets owner Steve Cohen eventually landed on Billy Eppler to lead his baseball operations staff, but Eppler was given the title of “general manager,” leaving the door open for the appointment of a chairman at the top of the league. hierarchy.
That said, Stearns may well be of interest to a slew of teams looking for a veteran baseball operations chief in the next year. The Harvard graduate has led baseball operations for the Brewers since 2015 and, prior to that, was assistant general manager in Houston, director of baseball operations in Cleveland (a role he shared with the current president of baseball operations for the Brewers). Twins, Derek Falvey).
As for Arnold, he will receive autonomy from a baseball operations department for the first time in his career. Hired away from the Rays in 2015 to serve as assistant general manager under Stearns, Arnold was promoted to general manager in 2020. Arnold, like Stearns, had attracted interest from other teams in their front office search, and the bump for the chairman of the general manager made it more difficult for other teams to pursue him (as clubs are generally only allowed to interview managers of other teams if they offer a promotion).
Despite holding the title of general manager for the past two years, the 43-year-old Arnold was second in the team’s operations hierarchy until today’s announcement. He has spent more than 20 years working in baseball operations, however, serving as director of player personnel for Tampa Bay in addition to various roles in scouting, player development and player analysis for the Dodgers, Reds and Rangers during his career.
The fact that Arnold is now the one assuming departmental oversight gives the Brewers a bit more continuity than the standard changing of the guard, but the change in leadership is a seismic change for the Brewers nonetheless. Attanasio called Stearns’ impact on the club ‘transformational’ in his own statement today, adding he was ‘disappointed’ with the decision but also ‘grateful’ to Stearns over the past seven years.
It’s easy to see why. Before hiring Stearns in 2015, the Brewers had won only two division titles dating back to 1969 and reached the playoffs only four times. Milwaukee won the NL Central in 2018 and 2021 under Stearns and reached the playoffs in four consecutive seasons, from 2018-21.
Along the way, Stearns, Arnold and their staff put together a powerful rotation starring rookies Brandon Woodruff and Corbin Burnesas well as commercial acquisitions such as Freddy Peralta, Eric Lauer and Adrian Houser. (Woodruff was drafted by the previous regime in 2014 but, as an 11th-round pick, is still a player development triumph for the entire organization.)
A look up and down the list of brewers reveals one of the most trade-dependent clubs in the Majors. In addition to Peralta, Lauer and Houser, Stearns oversaw the transactions that brought willy adames, Rowdy Tellez, Hunter Renfroe and Luis Urias in the organization. His most infamous exchanges include the lopsided Christian Yelich the acquisition of the Marlins and the trade that sent carlos gomez and Mike Proud to Houston in exchange for Houser, outfielder Brett Phillips and Josh Hader.
Stearns drew his share of criticism for trading Hader to the Padres at this summer’s deadline despite his team being in contention for what would be a third NL Central title under his stewardship. The former Brewers chairman has since acknowledged the move had a bigger impact on the clubhouse than he had anticipated. However, threading the needle by acquiring controllable talent in exchange for players whose club control dwindles (at or near max value) is a reality for most small and midsize front offices. (Hader will be a free agent next winter and has an expected officiating salary of $13.6 million.)
In general, though, it’s fair to say that Stearns’ drive to move boldly into the commercial market has more often benefited brewers than hurt them. Now, those decisions will ultimately come down to Arnold. It’s impossible to say for sure if he’ll have the same affinity for attacking the trading market aggressively, but given Arnold’s roots in a still-active Rays organization, seven years working alongside Stearns, and an umpiring class massive, the Brewers are likely in for another active offseason.
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