The New York Mets were eliminated in the Wild Card round of the playoffs. They won 101 games but fell short of their goals, leaving them in a position where they may desire a new decision-maker in Flushing. Once again, Brewers president of baseball ops David Stearns is at the top of the list.
It feels like we go through this every single year. The Mets are looking to hire, Stearns does not comment on the speculation, and he remains in Milwaukee. Sometimes they request an interview, and every time, Mark Attanasio denies the request.
We’re not quite to the request stage yet, but it’s another year completed for Stearns, and until he signs a new contract extension, it’s another year closer to the end of his contract. Previous reports indicated that Stearns could opt out of his deal if the Brewers went on a deep enough playoff run this year, which obviously didn’t happen, but is overall under contract through 2023.
It’s well known that the Mets want Stearns. They have a head of baseball ops in GM Billy Eppler, who is friends with Stearns. According to Mike Puma, the Mets could look to hire a PBO above Eppler and take decision making ability away from him.
The Mets consider hiring a president of baseball ops a “long-term initiative”. They are comfortable waiting. Waiting out Stearns and the Brewers perhaps?
The Mets may be willing to wait out Stearns, but would he want to leave the Milwaukee Brewers? It appears unlikely.
On the latest episode of The Baseball Insiders podcast, FanSided’s Robert Murray discusses this subject, starting around the 6:20 mark.
In his comments on whether the Mets will finally be able to poach Stearns away from Milwaukee, he gives some news that should be very comforting to Brewers fans:
"I would be surprised if Stearns left Milwaukee. From everything that I’ve gathered. Stearns is very comfortable in Milwaukee, he’s got a good situation there, an owner who supports him. Obviously he grew up in New York, so I’m sure he’d be entertained by it. Things can change of course, but I’d be surprised if Stearns left Milwaukee."
Some of you may laugh at the “an owner who supports him” line because Mark Attanasio seems unwilling to give Stearns the payroll necessary to build a World Series roster, but overall Attanasio loves Stearns and has his back. Does he give him enough financial support? That can be debated, but Stearns does have a good situation here.
As Murray points out, the Mets may be enticing for Stearns, given that he grew up a Mets fan, but he’s comfortable and happy where he is.
However, the real determining factor here in whether these questions about Stearns and the Mets will end and how long they’ll hold out hope for this “long-term initiative” is whether Stearns signs a new contract.
If the reports on his current contract are accurate, and there’s no guarantee that they are, Stearns is heading into the final year of his deal in 2023. PBOs and managers don’t like to be on one year deals and rarely will teams just let their contracts expire like that. Free agency as a decision maker like Stearns is vastly different than what it is for a player. Owners, if they like their guy, don’t let them go into a “walk year”, and we know Attanasio likes Stearns and wants to keep him.
That means Attanasio is most likely going to be looking to sign Stearns to another contract extension this offseason. If Stearns puts pen to paper, then Murray’s report would be accurate, Stearns stays around, and the Mets will have to either wait until this next contract expires, or simply move on and stop hoping he might come back to them one day and focus on themselves.
If Stearns doesn’t sign an extension and heads into 2023 with it being his last year under contract, that is going to be with either the intent to walk away and head to New York, or to use New York and his pending free agency as leverage for a better deal from Attanasio. Although Attanasio already knows that the Mets are after him and that’s already leverage enough so it’s most likely the former.
The good news is, it appears Stearns is likely to stay in Milwaukee going forward. Even though the 2022 season was a disappointment, he brought in a second golden age in Milwaukee and his overall success these past several seasons was no small accident or feat.