Stearns: Wide-ranging plan being formulated
MILWAUKEE -- The specifics will have to wait. On Thursday, during a wide-ranging news conference at Miller Park on his fourth formal day on the job, Brewers general manager David Stearns was still just warming up.
Stearns deferred questions about if he's willing to cut deeper into the team's Major League depth to bolster the farm system, whether the likes of Ryan Braun and Jonathan Lucroy are tradable this winter, and how he'll handle a looming logjam at shortstop. He said the Brewers had yet to decide whether they'll need a center fielder for 2016 or would cover the position with Domingo Santana, that he's considering using Elian Herrera as half of a platoon at third base and that he's still working through the process of staffing and structuring his front office.
To borrow owner Mark Attanasio's analogy, Stearns is still in the top of the first inning.
"Having a specified plan going into an offseason is always a little bit challenging because the dynamics of the offseason change consistently," Stearns said. "With every trade, every team's needs change somewhat. With every signing, the market can change a little bit. But heading into the GM Meetings [in Boca Raton, Fla., from Nov. 9-12] we should have a rough outline of what we're looking to do as an organization. And then the period between the GM Meetings and the Winter Meetings [in Nashville, Tenn., from Dec. 7-10], as the market begins to take shape, we should begin to really target specific areas.
"So we'll have a plan. That doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to share the specifics of it publicly. But we'll certainly have a plan formulated by then."
Stearns shared no specifics on Thursday, but here are some of the areas he addressed:
• Coming from three seasons as assistant GM during the Astros' rebuild, Stearns sees Milwaukee's situation as different.
"The Brewers' organization really began that transitional period in the middle of this year," Stearns said. "When [owner] Jim Crane brought the Astros and [Houston GM] Jeff Luhnow took over, they had not yet begun that move and that change in philosophy. They were starting from scratch. I don't see us as starting from scratch."
• On the importance of hitting on high Draft picks:
"I think you probably need to have several good Drafts, regardless of whether you are picking at the top of the Draft or somewhere in the middle or down at the bottom," Stearns said. "One of the fascinating things about the Astros this year, other than [former No. 1 overall pick Carlos Correa], that team hasn't been built through the Draft. That team has really been built through some intelligent, low-level free-agent signings, supplemental trades. The influx of talent that is coming to the Astros from the Draft, other than Carlos Correa, really isn't quite there yet. That will continue to power that organization forward. I think we have at least the potential to do something similar here."
• The length of that process remains open-ended.
"I think our fan base recognizes that there's patience needed," Stearns said. "Certainly, the fans that I've met even in my brief time in Milwaukee, they understand baseball. They recognize what the Cubs have done. They recognize what the Astros have done. And I think our fans are patient. That doesn't mean they need to be content with losing. We're not content with losing."
Asked whether he would continue a sell-off begun by predecessor Doug Melvin -- who made five trades in July and August that cost the Brewers five Major League players in exchange for prospects or financial flexibility -- Stearns said: "I have an obligation to the organization to explore every avenue to acquire and build a foundation here. If that means exploring future trades of Major League players, we're going to do it. That doesn't necessarily mean it's going to happen, but I wouldn't sit here and say that, 'Absolutely no, it can't happen.'"
• On analytics, and weeding out the important information from the noise:
"We have some really smart people who are going to help me do that," Stearns said. "The fundamental part of that is we want to get every piece of information we possibly can, and I know because of my background and given where I'm coming from and my age, everyone is focusing on analytics and statistics. But that is a segment of what we're doing here, it is. There's a lot more that goes into every decision that advanced statistics say or regression models say."