Milwaukee Brewers: The Crew’s Ghost of Christmas Past

SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 04: Jeff Suppan
SCOTTSDALE, AZ - MARCH 04: Jeff Suppan /

With Christmas finally here, now is a good time for GM David Stearns to go through the past mistakes the Milwaukee Brewers have made. By meeting with them, Stearns can also learn how to avoid them.

The Ghost of Christmas Past comes to haunt Ebenezer Scrooge. It also shows him things he’s done around Christmas time to demonstrate to him that he needs to change. The Milwaukee Brewers have made plenty of mistakes in the past. GM David Stearns needs to see these mistakes so he won’t repeat them.

Who’s the first ghost Stearns will meet?

The Ghost of Christmas Past will take David Stearns back to 2006. It was Christmas Eve that year when GM Doug Melvin signed free agent starter Jeff Suppan to a four year, $42 million contract. Stearns is standing in the corner of the room, watching Melvin negotiate with Suppan’s agent.

"Stearns: What is he doing? Whose agent is Doug talking to?Ghost of Christmas Past: He is signing Jeff Suppan to a four year deal, giving him the largest free agent contract the team has ever given out. Doug wanted a winner on his team.Stearns: But Suppan doesn’t work out. He doesn’t win. Suppan never posts an ERA under 4.50 during that contract. He turns into a complete bust. We need to stop this!Ghost: We can’t stop it. It’s too late.Stearns: I’ve seen enough of this. Take me away from here."

Who is up next for Stearns to see?

Stearns gets whisked away from the Suppan signing. He needs to catch his breath after witnessing that horrific scene. He tells the Ghost that he gets it, the Milwaukee Brewers never should have signed Suppan, but there was no way of knowing at the time that he would be a bust. Stearns gets taken back to an office. He sees Doug Melvin again, but with a lot more gray hairs.

"Stearns: What’s he doing now? What year is this?Ghost: It’s spring of 2013, and the Milwaukee Brewers are about to sign Kyle Lohse to a three year, $33 million deal.Stearns: Ok, well this wasn’t that bad. He actually pretty good for two of those years. He just went one year too long.Ghost: Don’t forget about the draft pick that was lost because of the qualifying offer Lohse received."

Signing Lohse took away the Brewers first round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, where they could have had a chance to select a player like Aaron Judge. Instead, the Crew got two decent years of Lohse before he regressed in his age-36 season.

Who’s up next?

The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Stearns to one year later. Stearns is standing in the back of a crowd at the Brewers On Deck event as owner Mark Attanasio begins to speak. He is announcing the signing of Matt Garza.

"Stearns: Oh no! I can’t watch this!Ghost: You must! It’s the only way to learn from the past.Stearns: They are celebrating the fact they’ve given their largest free agent contract ever to a 30 year old Matt Garza. It becomes a disaster. And I’m going to be stuck with him. Show me no more!Ghost: It isn’t your mistake. You will be charged with cleaning it up but you are not at fault for this. All you can do is prevent something like this from happening ever again."

And it was there that Stearns learned. By going through the mistakes of his predecessors he saw the problem with giving large free agent contracts to pitchers in their 30s. Suppan was 31, Lohse was 34, and Garza was 30. Each of their contracts caused more problems than they solved.

"Stearns: You mean to tell me that all I have to do is not sign any of these free agent pitchers over 30 years old and I won’t have to go through this myself?Ghost: That’s all you have to do.Stearns: That settles it. I’m not signing any of these big time free agent starters. None of them. I won’t get Jake Arrieta, I won’t get Yu Darvish, I won’t even get Lance Lynn. I’ve seen what these signings can do to an organization. They take our money, they don’t perform well, and they can take away our draft picks. It’s not worth it! It’s not worth it!"

In realizing that the big names like Jake Arrieta and Yu Darvish are over 30 years old and will cost a fortune to sign, Stearns knew that he should not sign those players to a contract. Stearns saw how bad those contracts have turned out before. He knows that they only lead to rebuilds. Stearns will be smarter than his predecessor and he will stay away from those players.

Next: Could the Brewers and Pirates work out a trade?

With that knowledge in hand, Stearns can now avoid any sleepless nights thinking about the possibility of him overpaying for a pitcher on the wrong side of 30. Because he knows that no good can come of it for the Milwaukee Brewers.