David Stearns has long been considered a Mets target, as the Brewers twice rejected requests from Mets owner Steve Cohen to speak with Stearns about New York’s front office vacancies in the last two years. When Stearns stepped down yesterday as Milwaukee’s president of baseball operations, speculation quickly arose about Sterns’ future and whether or not a move to New York could be in the offing, though Cohen has seemingly closed the door on the possibility.
Speaking with SNY’s Andy Martino, Cohen reiterated that general manager Billy Eppler “is in charge” of the Mets front office, and that the club is “focused on other things right now” than a pursuit of Stearns.
Cohen’s statement tracks with other recent reports suggesting that Eppler isn’t in danger of being replaced, as the positives of the Mets’ 101-win regular season look to have outweighed the disappointment of the club’s early playoff exit in the Wild Card Series. The Mets are still looking for a new team president, but were reportedly looking to hire a business-oriented executive for the role, leaving Eppler running baseball operations.
Of course, speculation linking Stearns and the Mets isn’t likely to end until Stearns takes a job with another team, the Mets hire a new president, or perhaps until Eppler is given a president of baseball operations title. (While clubs can use several different titles for their top front office decision-maker, Eppler’s status as “only” a GM does leave some wiggle room for a president of baseball ops to be installed above him.) In fact, Martino feels Cohen will eventually interview Stearns down the road, though Martino also writes that “Mets people have long insisted that the link between Cohen and Stearns has been overstated for the past year.”
For his part, Stearns said that he isn’t joining another team, and that his decision to step away from Milwaukee’s PBO job was based on a desire to step back from the daily grind of running a Major League team. Though he’ll remain as a consultant with the Brewers, Stearns said he is “looking forward to taking a deep breath, spending time with my family and exploring some other interests.”
There is also the practical matter of Stearns’ contract, which runs through the end of the 2023 season. Stearns and Brewers owner Mark Attanasio discussed the situation (with MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy and other reporters) in somewhat oblique terms at yesterday’s news conference, saying that there was some type of arrangement in place should another team ask to interview Stearns about another job.
Because Stearns is a contracted employee, Attanasio is under no official obligation to allow the Mets or any team to speak with Stearns. As an MLB official tells The Athletic’s Will Sammon, the league would have to approve any attempt on another’s team part to essentially purchase Stearns’ contract for cash. Perhaps not wanting to set precedent, “MLB would likely prefer the two sides strike a trade involving players,” Sammon writes. Trades involving non-player personnel are rare but not entirely uncommon. For instance, the Red Sox received two players (Chris Carpenter and Aaron Kurcz) from the Cubs as compensation for letting Theo Epstein out of the the final year of his contract to become Chicago’s new president of baseball operations, with prospect Jair Bogaerts also dealt from the Cubs to the Sox as part of the swap.