First off -- I know, no one is winning any annual awards in April. Lots of things can still happen. But this is a message board, and it's a topic of discussion, so I think if you look around the league and see what moves are shining the brightest right now, Stearns is your guy.
Thames alone is looking like someone who could net the award for Stearns. He won't continue his torrid pace, but I think it's already obvious he represents an upgrade from Carter, while even costing less. A move that was questioned around baseball is now looking like the obvious right call.
Shaw looks like a perfect fit here, and looks like a guy who may have been improperly valued in Boston. His lefty power bat is a great complement to a righty heavy lineup and plays very well at Miller Park. Thornburg is missed, but if Shaw turns into a 2.5-3 WAR or better 3rd baseman, it's obviously the right call for a reliever, without even considering what Dubon or Pennington turn into.
Don't forget about Bandy, who was acquired for Martin Maldonado and a AAA filler arm. Is Bandy going to fall off some? Of course he is, but the fact that it looks like we have a very solid catching duo going forward, both acquired for virtually nothing, is remarkable. If you had told me after Lucroy was traded last year that he wouldn't be missed much this year, I would have thought that was crazy. But so far, it's true - He just hasn't been.
Also, consider the cost value of Stearns' moves. Look at every guy I just referenced -- Shaw, Thames, Bandy, Pina...throw in Villar, Broxton, Guerra, all Stearns' guys. Add them all up. You still aren't even at $10M in annual salary combined. That's remarkable. Teams pay 8 figures a year in free agency to get a player that can give them average production. These guys were acquired for, in most cases, peanuts.
Finally, sometimes the best moves are the moves you don't make. While it was obvious that we were motivated to move Braun, and many, including myself, wanted to see something done while the opportunity was there to sell high, Stearns held his ground, set his price, and didn't deviate from it despite the temptation to move on it now. So far, that move, or lack thereof, is paying off. It still remains to be seen if Braun is moved, but everything that has happened so far this year, both with Braun and with the team, has given Stearns more leverage to dig in his heels to say, 'Meet our price, or forget about it.'
Before someone mentions Khris Davis or Jacob Nottinghamm, let me state the obvious -- no GM is going to hit on 100% of their moves, nor should we expect them to. I think the fact that you really have to scratch your head to come up with another move that didn't at least pan out to neutral is quite telling. You could even point to Jean Segura's breakout season last year after being traded, and Stearns still comes out smelling fine for netting the #65 overall prospect in baseball and a controllable #3-#4 starter in the deal.
So to sum it up, I think Stearns is killing it. And I say that with the full realization that it's still very early and there's a chance that some of these moves won't look as good at the end of the season (though they're almost all so low risk that it still wouldn't hurt). I think it's already pretty clear he knows what he's doing, and I'm glad he's leading the rebuild here. We're an up and coming team at the MLB level while also having one of the top farms in baseball. That's a far cry from where we were a few years ago.