David Stearns Trade Fleece #2: The Travis Shaw/Tyler Thornburg Trade
For years the Brewers had been lacking a power hitting, left handed bat in the lineup, especially at the corner infield spots. Third base had been a long-term problem for Milwaukee, and GM David Stearns, one year into his tenure at the time, made a trade with the Boston Red Sox at the 2016 Winter Meetings.
Just a few months earlier, Stearns dismantled his dynamic bullpen duo of Will Smith and Jeremy Jeffress in trades at the July Deadline as the Brewers rebuild continued. That left then-7th inning man Tyler Thornburg to handle closing duties. He handled them extremely well and his trade value was incredibly high.
So Stearns traded one single reliever in Thornburg, who had been a closer for just two months, in exchange for a starting third baseman in Travis Shaw, plus three prospects in IF Mauricio Dubon, RHP Josh Pennington, and IF Yeison Coca. Dubon was the best prospect of the group and was a top 5 Brewers prospect for a while.
In parts of five seasons with the Brewers, Thornburg had a 2.87 ERA while occasionally dealing with injuries. Then, before the 2017 season could even get started, Thornburg suffered an injury that cost him the whole season. He returned in 2018 and 2019, but in those two seasons with Boston, he posted a 6.54 ERA and was never the same.
Meanwhile, Travis Shaw immediately became a fan favorite in Milwaukee and played well in his first two seasons. He hit .273 with 31 homers and a 121 OPS+ in 2017, coming up with some clutch hits down the stretch. In 2018, on the NL Central winning club, Shaw hit .241 with 32 homers and a 119 OPS+.
Although Shaw slumped hard in 2019 and hasn’t been able to find that 2017-18 form again, this trade was a massive fleece for Stearns and the Brewers with what Shaw gave the franchise in those two years. Plus, Mauricio Dubon was a strong prospect and was traded for Drew Pomeranz at the 2019 trade deadline, who was a major boost for this club down that stretch.
As for the rest of the package, Josh Pennington retired in 2018 after suffering a string of injuries. Yeison Coca was the player to be named later and is still in the Brewers organization. The 22 year old hit .216/.283/.291 across High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A in 2021.
As great as this trade was, there’s one more that takes the cake.