Mets hire Stearns as president of baseball ops

Brewers executive agrees to 5-year deal to head NY's front office

October 2nd, 2023

NEW YORK -- David Stearns was raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a baseball-crazed Mets fan who would stay up late to listen to games and use the pillows on his bed to cushion indoor bullpen sessions. His grandfather hooked him on the game with stories of old New York baseball relayed from the seats of Shea Stadium.

It is from that background that Stearns entered the baseball industry fresh out of Harvard, interning for the Mets before going afield for more than a decade. Now, at long last, he’s returned to the place that first grabbed hold of him as a child.

The Mets on Monday agreed to a deal with Stearns to become their president of baseball operations. Terms were not announced, but it was for five years, according to a source. Stearns, 38, left his post in the Brewers' organization to become the Mets’ highest-ranking baseball ops employee.

Given such a chance to acquire one of baseball’s brightest young executives, the Mets jumped.

“It’s just another addition to the culture that this organization is trying to create,” said shortstop Francisco Lindor on Sept. 13, when news broke that a deal was imminent.

Since the moment Cohen took over as the Mets' owner in November 2020, he began searching for a long-term baseball operations leader. Since then, the Mets have leaned on four executives to lead the department, including Sandy Alderson, Jared Porter, Zack Scott and Billy Eppler. That whole time, the idea of hiring Stearns intrigued Cohen, but the young executive’s contract commitments with the Brewers made it impossible.

With those walls down, the Mets hope Stearns can now become a long-term answer, ushering in an era of stability and success in Queens.

His resume suggests he can. Upon graduating from Harvard, Stearns began his baseball career as an intern with the Omar Minaya-led Mets, who wanted to hire him full time but did not have an available position. Instead, Stearns moved on to Major League Baseball’s front office, to the Guardians and eventually to the Astros as an assistant general manager.

His next jump was to become GM of the Brewers, a small-market team he took to the postseason in four consecutive years from 2018-21. Along the way, Stearns earned a promotion to president of baseball ops in Milwaukee. Following the '22 season, he stepped down from that post to take on an advisory role, in what many around the game saw as a prerequisite to his hiring in Flushing. That reunion became official Monday.

In Milwaukee, Stearns took over a fourth-place team and reversed its fortunes through a slew of transactions -- including a 2018 trade for Christian Yelich, who won the National League MVP Award in his first season with the Brewers. Stearns finished tied for second in MLB Executive of the Year voting that year, then made the playoffs again the following season. Under Stearns, the Brewers finished in first or second place in every full season starting to 2017.

“When you hear the name ‘David Stearns,’ you think of Harvard and just the intelligence in the sense of his approach,” said Mets reliever Phil Bickford, who played under Stearns from 2020-21 in Milwaukee.

Back in New York, Stearns will work to revamp a Mets roster that won 101 games last season but stumbled this year, selling off key pieces at the Trade Deadline. He also must address the future of Eppler, who remains under contract as GM and is widely expected to stay aboard in that role.

One position Stearns will have to fill is manager after the Mets announced on Sunday that Buck Showalter would not return next season.

The Mets will rely on Stearns to reorient the franchise following a disappointing 2023 campaign that came on the heels of a historic offseason spending spree. Early injuries to Edwin Díaz and Justin Verlander unmoored the Mets, who also received uncharacteristic performances from several key veterans. Rather than maintain the same strategies amid an uncertain future, Cohen and Eppler orchestrated a historic Deadline selloff of Verlander, Max Scherzer and several other veterans.

Cohen then set his sights on Stearns.

“I’m always open to ideas,” the owner said earlier this season when asked about his desire to hire a president of baseball ops. “I had the conversation with Billy. He’s fully supportive. It’s just a question of finding the right person.”