In order for the St. Louis Cardinals to reemerge as a contender in 2024, they'll have to first surpass their National League Central foes. While the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds seem to be on the rise, no one is talking about this major loss that the Brewers are experiencing.
The New York Mets are reportedly hiring Brewers' president of baseball operations, David Stearns, to the same position within their front office.
Since becoming the Brewers GM in 2015 and being promoted to president of baseball operations in 2022, Stearns has been the catalyst for bringing the small-market Brewers back to consistent contention in the National League. He swung the infamous Christian Yelich deal that propelled their lineup since 2018 and has brought them from their fourth-place finish when he took over to finish first or second in the NL Central every full season since 2017.
Stearns consistently finds a way to make the most of the small payroll he is given and strings together awesome trades, bargain free agent signings, and timely development of prospects to compete with the likes of the Cardinals, Cubs, Dodgers, Padres, Phillies, Braves, and Mets. Now Stearns will be able to bring his leadership to the Mets front office, where he'll have basically unlimited resources at his disposal to transform that club.
From a big-picture standpoint, the Cardinals, and the rest of baseball, should be worried about the Mets getting Stearns to lead their front office. But when you look purely at the National League Central, this is a huge win for the Cardinals.
The Brewers are facing the impending free agency of guys like Corbin Burnes, Brandon Woodruff, and Willy Adames. It's unlikely the Brewers will be able to resign any of that trio, and although they have a great farm system, it feels likely that they'll take some steps back in the near future in order to revamp their club long-term. Unless their ownership totally changes gears and starts spending, that's how their front office has to operate.
Stearns did a great job of consistently winning, even with all of those constraints. It's hard to believe their next president of baseball operations will be able to do that at the level Stearns has been able to.
Another thing to watch is the status of Brewers' manager Craig Counsell. Regarded as one of the best managers in baseball, many around the league believe he'll take a break from managing after the 2023 season, or possibly even follow Stearns and become the manager in New York. If this ends up happening, that'll be another huge blow for the Brewers.