Since taking over the front office,
Stavid David Stearns' tenure has been one constant stream of trades and claims. By my count, the Brewers have made approximately 1,000 transactions since Stearns took over. For some, this is distressing; for others, refreshing. Though many moves ultimately haven't added much value, several look promising or have already returned better than expected value.
One method for approximating on-field value may be calculated in several different ways. I'm speaking of the practice of assigning a dollar amount to the Wins Above Replacement (WAR) statistic. The two methods that I am aware of are detailed here at Fangraphs and here at Beyond the Boxscore. Essentially, Fangraphs uses projected WAR for every free agent and free agent dollars spent to calculate how much teams have spent for the wins they expect to add. Beyond the Boxscore takes a retrospective approach, making their calculation using free agency dollars and actual on field performance.
Basically, according to Dave Cameron's calculation at Fangraphs, one win in 2016 costs about $8MM. That's a lot of lettuce. Imagine you are an owner in 2016, and you want to add, let's say 10 wins to your 2015 win total. In order to do so through the free agent market, you'd find yourself staring down the barrel of an $80MM dollar investment. That has got to be hard to stomach. This makes David Stearns' wizardry all the more valuable to an owner like Mark Attanasio, as he explores all routes in his mission to add value to the organization.
Three players stick out in my mind as having already returned surplus value to the organization. Others may still provide surplus value via trade or future performance, but I will only focus on the three that follow.
Acquired to fill the giant hole at first base, Carter has been surprisingly successful in Milwaukee thus far. Projected by ZiPS to belt a mere 24 HRs this year, Sleepy is already at 13 dingers, and it looks like he will blow past that projection. Adding a ton of value with his bat, Carter has negated some of that value with his baserunning and defense. Nonetheless, his fWAR is currently sitting at a very respectable 0.7 Wins. Using Fangraphs WAR$, Carter's on-field performance is currently valued at $5.7MM. In light of his $2.5MM salary and his two additional years of control, clearly we are in surplus value territory. This doesn't even include the potential value to be added at the trade deadline or in the off season if he is indeed dealt to a power hungry team. Also not included is the value of Carter's winning smile, which certainly is worth something.
Perhaps you remember Cy Sneed, or maybe you remember his mustache better. He was the pitcher that we traded to acquire Jonathan Villar. A former top 100 prospect, Villar largely disappointed in his first three seasons as an Astro. And so, after being dealt to the Brewers for Sneed, Villar has become quite valuable. How valuable? Valuable enough that one of the game's top shortstops may be comfortably held in the minors for the next several months. Valuable enough that, according to tonight's broadcast, a serious Craig Counsell called Villar a top ten shortstop in all of baseball. Valuable enough to make some say, "Rickey Henderson who?" (Well, probably not, but he is tied for the league lead in stolen bases at 15). Valuable enough that his 0.7 wins is calculated to be worth $5.3MM, much more than his $512,900 salary. I doubt Stearns would trade him, so any future added value will most likely come via on-field performance, which will likely be worth much more than the wishfully named "Cy" Sneed.
A couple of weeks ago on the Brewers telecast, Brian Anderson noted that "no one would have guessed that Junior Guerra would be the first Brewers pitcher called up from the minors." Well, I guess we can safely say that Brian Anderson does not read BrewCrewBall. Of course, we all saw it coming, thanks in no small part to Kyle Lesniewski's tireless efforts. And all of those efforts have paid off marvelously! The #2016BrewersAce is five games into his Brewers career, and he's sitting on a tidy 3.30 ERA and a 0.6 fWAR. (This number has likely increased by this published, due to the fact that his 5 IP and 0 ER against the Braves has not yet been reflected on Fangraphs as of my writing this article). This contribution on the field is valued by Fangraphs at $4.8MM, a mere pittance compared what I assume is his infinite value to each one of you. Expect that number to rise through the remainder of the season.
Perhaps this exercise doesn't mean much to you. After all, why would it matter to you how effectively Attanasio's money is spent? Well, it doesn't matter much for this season, but it is extremely encouraging for future seasons. Stearns' ability to locate and add value at a minimal cost should be extremely beneficial in future seasons. At some point, the Crew will be ready for contention, and every win that can be squeezed out of every penny may result in some meaningful October baseball. I'm excited by that notion. This is only his first year at the helm; hopefully Stearns is able to continue adding players like Carter, Villar, and Guerra every season for the foreseeable future.
All statistics are courtesy of Fangraphs.