August 1 was an important day for David Stearns. While the trade deadline was passing in baseball, Stearns gained the right to begin talking to other teams about a potential contract. He’s in the final year of his contract after stepping down from the president of baseball operations last year and becoming an advisor. At the time, he talked about looking forward to having more time to unplug and focus more on his personal life. However, at 38 years old, it’s not surprising that his career as an executive is not done yet. Over the past week, rumors have picked up about his potential next destination. The main rumor has been centered around the Mets (via Will Sammon and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic), the same team that has been at the forefront of all these rumors the last several seasons.
It’s not a surprise that rumors continue to surround this pairing. There are many links between David Stearns and the Mets. Stearns grew up in New York and spent time in his early career in the Mets front office. He is highly regarded by Mets owner Steve Cohen, and they have a potential space to add a president of baseball operations. The rumors surrounding Stearns to the Mets have been persistent, and Andy Martino of SNY even says that these discussions have advanced further than the ones with Theo Epstein. However, it’s not a done deal yet.
With the link between Stearns and the Mets constant, why isn’t it a sure thing? While Stearns may be heavily leaning towards the Mets, he’s going to be a full free agent and basically have his choice of landing spot. Some of this could just be positioning to maximize any potential deal he gets. However, he may also consider other offers.
One of those could come from the Houston Astros (h/t Anthony Franco of MLB Trade Rumors). Before Stearns came to Milwaukee, he was an assistant GM for the Astros for three seasons (2013-2015). They have also been coming up in rumors around Stearns impending free agency, though they don’t have as clear of a path to bring him in. The Astros brought in Dana Brown during the offseason to be their new general manager. There could be space to still bring in Stearns, but the path here isn’t as clear. There could be genuine interest, or just positioning for a better deal with the Mets.
Also, the Mets may be in a position where they have to sign Stearns no matter what the cost is. Joel Sherman of the New York Post wrote that, if Stearns doesn’t go to the Mets, it could be a bad look for the organization. He notes that Cohen has been frustrated by not being able to get his candidate for the last few years, that there’s not another top candidate out there, and that not landing a candidate with so many connections to New York would say a lot about the organization. Stearns will likely get a record deal for a baseball executive, and Sherman’s prediction is a 5-year/$75 million contact with plenty of explicit powers and maybe even an opt-out clause. However, he also notes that money will likely not be Stearns’ primary concern as much as finding the right place to be successful.
There’s also the question of the Mets’ manager spot, should they choose to move on from Buck Showalter. With Craig Counsell also not under contract after this season, there’s a possibility that he could follow Stearns to a new team. Jon Heyman notes that Counsell could follow Stearns to New York, or might even take some time off from baseball. However, Curt Hogg and Todd Rosiak of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel also note that the only connection between Counsell and the Mets right now is the David Stearns rumors. Even if Stearns does go to the Mets, it’s not guaranteed that Counsell follows him. In fact, there’s more connections for him in Milwaukee than anywhere else. When asked about the contract situation, Counsell made it clear that he’s not interested in talking about it until after the season.
With both of these potential departures looming, it creates a lot of concern around the Brewers after the 2023 season. While losing David Stearns would be a big loss to the organization, it is set up to weather his departure a bit better. Because of how the end of Stearns’ contract has been handled, the new structure under GM and president of baseball operations Matt Arnold has been put in place. That’s not to say that the Brewers wouldn’t lose out without Stearns. It would absolutely be a tough blow. However, the Brewers already have started to prepare for this and could be in position to move on.
Losing Craig Counsell may actually be the bigger loss if he decides to not return. Counsell has engrained himself as the top manager in Brewers history. He’s currently on track to lead the Brewers to their fifth playoff appearance in six seasons. His teams have consistently defied expectations and outperformed predictions despite what the stats say. There’s not a clear replacement for him at this point. If Counsell leaves, that role will be much harder to fill.
For now, the focus is on finishing up the 2023 season. The Brewers still have the lead in the NL Central and they’re on track for another playoff appearance. While they have a tough road ahead in a potential playoff run, this team has shown that they can succeed even with the odds stacked against them. However, the upcoming uncertainty after the season is done will be lingering the rest of the way.