David Stearns’ legacy will live on forever in the hearts of Milwaukee Brewers fans. He had long been labeled as the mastermind behind putting some of the best Brewers teams on the field in recent memory.
Stearns is the man responsible for bringing each of Christian Yelich, Wily Adames, Lorenzo Cain, Hunter Renfroe, Mike Moustakas, Freddy Peralta, Omar Narvaez and so many more beloved figures in the Brewers world.
With the news breaking last Thursday that he is stepping down from his role as President of Baseball Operations, it’s worth noting that not every move he made was a good one.
Here are the three worst moves David Stearns made in his tenure with the Brewers.
#3: Trading Khris Davis to the Oakland Athletics for Jacob Nottingham and Bubba Derby
One of the earliest moves made by Stearns at the helm actually might be one of the worst ones he ever made.
Khris Davis had been a designated hitter pretending to be a left fielder for the Brewers for parts of three seasons prior to this deal, but he had posted an above-average OPS+ in each of his years in Milwaukee and went on to be even better for Oakland.
In his first three seasons as a member of the A’s, Davis hit 40 home runs and drove in over 100 runs in each of them, never posting an OPS+ below 123 before beginning to decline in 2019.
As for the “talent” the Brewers got in return for the big slugger, pitching prospect Bubba Derby showed the occasional glimpse of promise as a starter in the minor leagues but never surfaced in the majors before joining the Tigers organization as a minor league free agent in the 2021-22 offseason.
Catcher Jacob Nottingham did make appearances in the big leagues but wound up hitting just .205 and being worth 0.7 bWAR through 43 games spread across parts of four seasons.
#2: Acquiring Trevor Rosenthal at the 2022 trade deadline
Trevor Rosenthal is perhaps best known among Brewers fans as the former dominant reliever for the division rival Cardinals.
Rosenthal has struggled mightily with injuries in pretty much each season since 2017, with the current campaign being no different. He signed a $4.5MM contract with the Giants in July of this year but never threw a single pitch for them in either the major or minor leagues thanks to injuries.
So, Stearns and Co. decided to trade Tristan Peters, a promising young outfield prospect (albeit not quite at the same level as say, Garrett Mitchell, Sal Frelick or Joey Wiemer) to the Giants in exchange for the shell of what Rosenthal used to be.
Rosenthal is set to return to the free agent market after making just three appearances for the Nashville Sounds, giving up four runs in two innings, good for an 18.00 ERA. Most notably, he never ended up throwing a pitch for the Brewers in 2022.
#1: Trading Josh Hader to the San Diego Padres
There was never going to be a different option coming it at No. 1 on this list. While the prospects that the Crew got in exchange for Josh Hader are still too new to make any real judgements, the deal that sent Hader packing is likely the main reason for the Brewers rapid decline down the stretch this year.
Taylor Rogers, the major big-league piece the Padres sent to Milwaukee, made 24 appearances for the Crew, finishing with a 5.48 ERA and 5.07 FIP in 23 innings, good for an ERA+ of just 73.
The handling of the Dinelson Lamet situation is another aspect of this trade that just makes you scratch your head. Just two days after his inclusion in the Hader deal, the Brewers designated him for assignment and ultimately lost him on waivers to the Rockies, where he made 19 appearances and finished the campaign with a 117 ERA+.
I’m more than willing to give it some time to see what prospects Esteury Ruiz and Robert Gasser turn into to put a final grade on the trade but sending Hader to the Padres in the heat of a pennant race was foolish from the start and the clubhouse disarray that came from it is likely why the Brewers missed out on the playoffs.
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Nobody is perfect, not even the man who helped usher in a new golden era of Milwaukee Brewers baseball. What matters is that in the end, the good moves far outweighed the bad.