Stearns sparks trade talks at GM Meetings
Lind, K-Rod and Segura may be on block as offseason heats up
MILWAUKEE -- New Brewers boss David Stearns carried active trade talks into his first General Managers Meetings, which began Monday in Boca Raton, Fla., with Stearns among a slew of rookie GMs.
The Brewers are among the dozen clubs which have made significant structural changes recently. Stearns took over as head of Milwaukee's baseball operations department from Doug Melvin, who remained as president of baseball operations, and while other clubs have similar structures in which the president is at the top of the organizational flow chart, Stearns is the Brewers' chief decision-maker.
"We've had productive conversations with specific clubs regarding players on their rosters and players on our roster," Stearns said before departing for Florida. "Handicapping the likelihood that something gets done is always very challenging for me. You never really know until you get the final pieces in place. But I certainly believe the discussions we've had to this point in the offseason have been productive."
Stearns said those discussions began about two weeks ago, after he completed an inventory of the Brewers' existing front office and made a handful of changes. They were headlined by the hiring of assistant GM Matt Arnold from Tampa Bay's front office.
Arnold accompanied Stearns to Boca Raton along with director of baseball operations Karl Mueller. Manager of baseball contracts Matt Kleine also made the trip to attend a seminar on arbitration.
The rebuilding Brewers are not expected to be major players in free agency, but they are positioned to make trades if Stearns opts to continue restocking the farm system with deals like the ones Melvin made in July and August. Among Milwaukee's remaining trade chips are closer Francisco Rodriguez, who has $9.5 million still guaranteed on his contract ($5.5 million salary in 2016, $2 million deferred salary, plus $2 million buyout of a '16 club option); first baseman Adam Lind ($8 million salary in '16, the final year of his contract); and shortstop Jean Segura (arbitration-eligible for the first time).
Stearns has hinted against the likelihood of trading catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but if that stance changes, Lucroy would be the Brewers' most valuable movable piece, despite the 29-year-old's subpar 2015 season. Lucroy's contract calls for a $4 million salary in '16 and a $5.25 million club option for '17.
There's also been some industry buzz that Stearns would be willing to move some of the Brewers' reliable relievers, such as lefty Will Smith (who is arbitration-eligible for the first time) and righty Jeremy Jeffress for the right return.
Stearns did not comment on the availability of any specific players, but he said, "We have very valuable Major League pieces that are both valuable to us and, naturally, valuable to the rest of the industry as well. There has certainly been no shortage of interest in various players throughout our organization."
Typically, GM Meetings offer clubs an opportunity to lay groundwork for future deals, some of which are consummated during the larger Winter Meetings in December. This year, that event takes place Dec. 7-10 in Nashville.
"For whatever reason, when we get all 30 teams together in the same place, it does seem to promote activity and discussion," Stearns said. "While it may not necessarily be 100 percent required to continue to have these meetings in order to get trades, they do serve a purpose. They spark ideas. When you're seeing everyone for the majority of three or four days, it does lead to conversations."