I am really starting to believe in David Stearns.
The young Milwaukee Brewers' general manager seems to be pushing all the right buttons.
Let's be clear. None of us were too happy when the Brewers cleaned house, trading away several talented starters - minus Ryan Braun - in 2015 and 2016 for draft picks and young farm club players from other organizations. However, the Brewers now have the best farm organization in the Major Leagues.
The Brewers took on a new look with all their young talent in 2017. While most sports writers and talking heads predicted a fourth or fifth place finish in the Central Division, the Brewers surprised everyone with their runnerup finish in front of my beloved St. Louis Cardinals. And lest we forget they were in a chase for the final wild card going into the last weekend of the season.
Credit goes to Manager Craig Counsell and his coaching staff.
They moved players around all season, finding the best position to display their budding talent.
The Brewers also watched their young pitching staff mature. From their starting rotation to the bullpen, they grew into one of the best young staffs in the big leagues.
The Brewers made Stearns the youngest GM in the Major Leagues when they signed him away from the Houston Astros in September of 2015. The data-driven Stearns started with Houston in November 2012 with the rebuilding Astros coming off consecutive 100-loss seasons. They lost 111 games in 2013, but were postseason bound by 2015 when Stearns departed for the Brewers' top job.
This year's Astros' team is one game away from winning the World Series.
Stearns is relying on the same blueprint that carried the Astros to where they are today. He's also a firm believer in analytics in today's modern world of baseball. He also believes in acquiring, drafting, developing and keeping talent as proven by the recent signing of starting pitcher Chase Anderson and utility man Eric Sogard.
The Brewers recently signed Anderson to a two-year contract through the 2019 season with club options for 2020 and 2021.
"Signing Chase to a multi-year contract furthers our strategy to acquire, develop and retain talent throughout our organization," said Stearns. "Chase's 2017 performance elevated his stature in the game and demonstrated that he has the capability to lead a rotation. Since he arrived in Milwaukee, Chase has been a model contributor to our community both on and off the field. We are happy for him and his family, and look forward to Chase's contributions for years to come."
Anderson, 29, who was eligible for arbitration, went 12-4 with a 2.74 ERA in 25 starts for the Brewers in 2017. He set career highs for victories and strikeouts (133) and tied his career high with 13 quality starts. Anderson has gone 17-5 with a 2.69 ERA over his last 37 starts dating back to July 25, 2016. His ERA since that date ranks fourth in the Major Leagues among starting pitchers (minimum 35 starts).
Anderson was acquired from Arizona as part of a five-player trade on Jan. 30, 2016. He owns a career record of 36-28 with a 3.87 ERA in 104 games (103 starts) with Arizona (2014-15) and Milwaukee (2016-current). He is 21-15 with a 3.59 ERA in 56 games (55 starts) as a Brewer.
The Brewers also signed Sogard to a one-year contract shortly after signing Anderson.
"Eric brings to the team a veteran presence who possesses the ability to play multiple positions and reach base at a high rate," Stearns said. "We are pleased to welcome Eric and his family back to Milwaukee for the 2018 season."
Sogard, 31, batted .273 with 3 HR and 18 RBI in 94 games during his first season with Milwaukee after missing all of 2016 with a left knee injury. He made 60 starts at four positions (37g at 2B, 20g at SS, 2g at 3B, 1g in LF). He posted a .393 on-base percentage, which would have led the team if he had enough plate appearances, as he walked 45 times compared to just 37 strikeouts.
Sogard, who was eligible to become a free agent at the conclusion of the 2017 postseason, was originally signed last December 15 as a non-roster invitee to spring training. He owns a career batting average of .245 with 11 HR and 123 RBI during seven Major League seasons with Oakland (2010-15) and Milwaukee (2017).
Are the Brewers on the right track? Thanks to Stearns, YES!