MILWAUKEE -- Brewers general manager David Stearns could have held onto his prized prospects a little longer. He could have spread out his payroll among more players, instead of sinking his resources into a select few.
But why be afraid to make bold moves?
"We thought it was the right time," Stearns said.
:: NLCS schedule and results ::
Stearns sent a boatload of prospects to the Marlins for Christian Yelich on Jan. 25. Two days later, he signed Lorenzo Cain to a five-year, $80 million contract. The moves sent a message that the organization was ready to win in 2018. The players responded. Their promising start convinced the Brewers' front office to push for more. Later in the summer they landed Jonathan Schoop, Mike Moustakas, Joakim Soria, Curtis Granderson and Giovany Gonzalez, who will start Friday night in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers.
The Brewers and Dodgers reached the NLCS in part because they got aggressive when it came time to upgrade their rosters.
The Dodgers landed Manny Machado in July, following the injury to Corey Seager. Machado was the biggest prize before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"This ballclub could have made it this far as easily without me," Machado said.
In a sense, Machado was right. They needed more than just him. The Dodgers also acquired David Freese and James Dozier to help them against left-handed pitching. They got reliever Ryan Madson because of his postseason experience and ability to get out both lefties and righties.
"You can take the on-field stuff out of the equation," Madson said. "It's a feeling you have when somebody comes in. It's a more solid or whole feel when you bring in an addition."
But the Dodgers are expected to make blockbuster moves because, well, they are the Dodgers. They are one of the most high-profile teams in baseball. The Brewers? Each move seems to carry a little more risk as one of baseball's small-market teams.
The Brewers can't buy their way out of mistakes.
"I think that's probably true across a wide range of transactions," Stearns said. "We do have less room for error than maybe some other markets, and we understand that. We revel in that a little bit."
But players like Moustakas, Freese and Granderson brought more than just their talents to their respective clubhouses.
They brought intangibles.
Yes, in an analytics world, character still counts.
"I can't put a win value on it, but I certainly know it helps," Stearns said. "I am very confident it's one of the reasons we're here today."
Stearns laughed when asked if it was easy to trade for Yelich, who is signed through 2021 with a 2022 club option.
It was not.
"We gave up a tremendous amount of prospect value in that deal," he said. "I think you can argue the largest amount of prospect value the Brewers ever gave up in any single trade in the history of the franchise. That was a significant investment in one particular player. And we're fortunate that he has matured as a player, evolved as a player and turned into a superstar-caliber player. We understood at the time that there is meaningful risk."
But Yelich could be the National League MVP. He could lead the Brewers to their first World Series since 1982.
The risk paid off.