The Braves and Brewers make for an interesting comparison. They transitioned from traditional GMs to young wunderkinds who undertook massive rebuilds. With each team about halfway through the process, now’s a good time to gauge their handiwork.
Return on assets
Before Milwaukee tapped David Stearns to be their GM in Oct. 2015, his predecessor did him a solid, trading Carlos Gomez and Mike Fiers to Houston for a package highlighted by prospects Domingo Santana, Josh Hader and Brett Phillips. Santana has been okay in 136 games with the Brewers, homering 19 times with a .236 BA and .335 OBP. Hader, now Milwaukee’s top pitching prospect, has great stuff but command issues while Phillips had a difficult year in Double-A but has rebounded nicely in Triple-A.
Stearns sent Jean Segura, coming off two horrible seasons, to Arizona for Isan Diaz, a power-hitting middle infielder and consensus Top-100 prospect, and Chase Anderson, who’s not a prospect but has been workmanlike for the Brewers. He then traded Khris Davis to Oakland for catching prospect Jacob Nottingham, who’s been a bust so far.
But Stearns rebounded with a pair of solid deals at last year’s trading deadline. He dealt Jeremy Jeffress and Jonathan Lucroy to Texas for outfielder Lewis Brinson, a top 20 prospect according to most evaluators, hard-throwing right-hander Luis Ortiz and Ryan Cordell. He got good value for reliever Phil Smith, acquiring 20-year-old pitcher Phil Bickford, drafted in the first round by two teams (2013 and 2015).
Coppy had more assets to deal and the returns so far the results are mixed. He did well in the Jason Heyward and Justin Upton trades and, if Folty’s progress continues, the Gattis deal will be looked at favorably. It looks like the Andrelton trade was a big whiff (more on that later) while the trade of Craig Kimbrel brought salary relief but little in the way of talent. A year later, the Padres turned Kimbrel into Manuel Margot, who at 22 looks quite comfortable playing CF for the Padres.
Diamonds in the rough
I wrote a post about this other day. In this category, Stearns has a huge edge. Milwaukee picked up Jonathan Villar for a 24-year-old pitcher yet to advance past Double-A. Eric Thames was signed for three years and $15 mil. Instead of signing a retread like Kurt Suzuki they found catcher Manny Pina, batting .419 in 43 ABs (after a great spring) and traded for Jett Bandy (4 HR in 13 games). Junior Guerra, plucked off waivers, had a 2.81 ERA and 1.126 WHIP in 121 IP last year.
So which team is closer to relevance? It could be the Brewers, if Thames continues mashing and Villar rediscovers his 2016 form. So far those two players have provided the kind of production you’d expect out of a top free agent.
But the Braves have more talent on the horizon, at least on the pitching end. The Brew Crew have focused more on offense. Overall both teams appear to have promising futures. If you could combine the two organizations then you’d really have something.