Being a small market franchise, the Milwaukee Brewers have historically had to rely heavily on trades to acquire major talent to help them compete at the highest level possible. We saw this in December of 2010 when former GM Doug Melvin made a splash in trading for CY Young award winner Zack Greinke from the Kansas City Royals for a slew of prospects, along with other similar deals.
Shifting to David Stearns’ tenure as the Brewers’ general manager, the young Harvard graduate has already pulled off a number of large-scale trades that have accelerated the Brewers’ post -2014 rebuild. Starting on a positive note, let’s highlight some of those deals and how they have worked out for the Brewers. Some are easier to judge than others, but for the most part, the sample size is large enough to determine a winner and a loser of the deals.
2016-17 offseason- Brewers receive Travis Shaw, Mauricio Dubon, and Josh Pennington from Red Sox in exchange for Tyler Thornburg
As we speak, this deal has been 100% one-sided because Tyler Thornburg has yet to throw a pitch in a Red Sox uniform due to injury woes. With that being said though, it is still fair to say that the Brewers are the clear winners of the trade because of the amount of production they have gotten from Travis Shaw since he arrived in the Cream City. Last season, Shaw was the Brewers’ best player and boasted all-star caliber numbers to the tune of 31 home runs and 101 RBIs while playing a solid third base. Thus far in the 2018 season, Shaw has again been arguably the Brewers’ best hitter. In addition to the great production that Shaw has provided, infield prospect Mauricio Dubon was swinging an extremely hot bat and seemed to be on the verge of a call-up to the major league club before just recently tearing his ACL. This trade is already lopsided, and if Dubon is able to reach his potential, the gap will continue to grow. Another win for the Brewers here.
- 2016-17 offseason: Brewers receive Jett Bandy from the Angels in exchange for Martin Maldonado
This swap of catchers that the Brewers and Angels pulled off prior to the start of the 2017 season has proved to be the antithesis of other David Stearns trades. When this deal was made, the goal for Milwaukee was to be able to have more offense coming from the catcher position with Jonathan Lucroy out of town. That hasn’t been the case whatsoever because aside from a few good moments, Bandy has been ineffective at the plate. Last year, he batted just .207 and managed only 18 RBIs and was eventually demoted to Triple-A Colorado Springs. And this season has been unfortunately more of the same for the 28-year-old backstop.
As for Martin Maldonado, he has blossomed with his change of scenery and capped off a very strong 2017 season by winning an American League Gold Glove Award with the Angels of Anaheim. It is good to see Maldonado playing at a very high level, and the sting of this trade is balanced out by the fact that Manny Pina has been a stud both offensively and defensively as Milwaukee’s regular catcher, and has come up with some huge clutch hits for the team, most recently being a 9th inning game-tying home run off of Wade Davis in Colorado on the Brewers’ last road trip to cap off a 6-run comeback by the Crew.
- January 25th, 2018: Brewers trade Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz, and Jordan Yamamoto to Marlins in exchange for Christian Yelich
This trade is a perfect example of what David Stearns values most in terms of player acquisition: Team-friendly contracts and versatility. Even though he has only played 29 games as a Brewer, outfielder Christian Yelich has quickly acclimated himself to the style of play that the Brewers are trying to adopt; being active on the bases and cutting down on strikeouts. Again an early sample size, but Yelich has definitely been the player the Brewers thought they were getting when they pulled off the trade for him.
As for the major piece that the Brewers let go of in the Yelich deal, center fielder Lewis Brinson has struggled mightily out of the gates for Miami. One has to assume that Brinson will improve offensively with consistent at-bats, but the jury is still out on him as a potential franchise cornerstone.
While not every deal that Stearns has made in his relatively brief tenure as the general manager of the Milwaukee Brewers has been entirely perfect, the larger scale ones have been the ones that have worked out which is all you can ask for from a young GM. And let’s be honest, the Travis Shaw trade is already one of the best made by any team in recent memory. All things considered, the David Stearns era is off to a fantastic start and a potential 2018 postseason run will only help him and his assembled ballclub gain respect and notoriety among the Major League Baseball community.