The New York Mets are hiring David Stearns as their president of baseball operations, sources told ESPN on Tuesday, tabbing the architect of multiple division titles in Milwaukee to help deliver the first World Series championship to Queens in nearly four decades.
Stearns, 38, has long been rumored to take over the Mets after stepping down as Brewers president after the 2022 season and will officially begin his five-year deal in early October, after the regular season ends, sources told ESPN.
A New York native who grew up a Mets fan, Stearns was denied permission by the Brewers to talk about the Mets' top baseball operations job after the 2021 season.
Stearns' contract with Milwaukee, which is set to expire after this season, allowed him to speak with other teams following this year's Aug. 1 trade deadline. While other teams expressed interest, the opportunity to run the Mets -- with the seemingly limitless resources of owner Steve Cohen -- makes the Stearns-to-New York move perhaps the most significant for a baseball front office since Andrew Friedman left the Tampa Bay Rays to take over the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014.
The Mets, who entered the 2023 season with championship aspirations, collapsed in the first half, and general manager Billy Eppler traded a quarter of their roster, including co-aces Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, before the deadline.
Eppler will remain as GM and serve as the No. 2 to Stearns. Together, they'll reshape the Mets' front office after Eppler recently fired four department directors, including of player development and pro scouting.
"It's about today, it's about tonight -- we're all trying to win in a very competitive business," Mets manager Buck Showalter said Tuesday about the impact Stearns' hiring could have on his job. "It's not the time and place for my mind to be going there.
"Stay on task. These things usually work themselves out if you stay true to the game and what your job description is."
Like Friedman, Stearns excelled in a small market with a limited budget, going 554-479 in seven years -- an average of 87 wins a season. Never in Stearns' tenure did the Brewers carry an above-average payroll -- and in his first two seasons, they ranked last in Major League Baseball. By Stearns' third year, the Brewers ran away with the National League Central and pushed the Dodgers to Game 7 of the NL Championship Series.
It began a run of four consecutive playoff appearances for Milwaukee and helped cement Stearns as one of the game's brightest young executives.
He began his career interning with the Mets, who declined to hire him full time. Stearns moved to MLB's labor relations department before heading to Cleveland, where he served as director of baseball operations. Houston hired Stearns, then 27, as an assistant general manager, and three years later, Milwaukee replaced longtime GM Doug Melvin with him.
Stearns' first splash came in 2018, when he traded four prospects to Miami for outfielder Christian Yelich, who won the NL MVP award that season. Under Stearns, Milwaukee regularly developed solid big-league players despite a farm system that was not regarded among the best by evaluators.
Among those drafted or signed by Stearns: Cy Young winner Corbin Burnes, outfielders Sal Frelick, Garrett Mitchell and Joey Wiemer, infielder Brice Turang and right-hander Drew Rasmussen, who was traded to Tampa Bay for shortstop Willy Adames, a core member of a Brewers team currently in first place. The system continues to produce, with the No. 2 prospect in baseball, 19-year-old outfielder Jackson Chourio, thriving at Double-A and likely to debut next season.
With the Mets, Stearns will inherit one of the best farm systems in the game -- one buoyed by the acquisitions of infielder Luisangel Acuña and outfielder Drew Gilbert at the deadline as well as the emergence of Jett Williams, a first-round pick in 2022, as a legitimate top-of-the-order threat. Though the Mets' plan is to pare back from the record half-billion-dollar payroll they carried into the 2023 season, they'll remain among the highest-spending teams in MLB and plan to accelerate their financial commitment as the next wave of prospects ascends in 2025 and beyond.
The Mets, who last won the World Series in 1986, are far from barren as is. Among shortstop Francisco Lindor, outfielder Brandon Nimmo, starter Kodai Senga, closer Edwin Diaz and rookie catcher Francisco Alvarez, they have five core players locked up through at least 2027.
One of Stearns' first orders of business will be assessing the trade market for first baseman Pete Alonso, who is set to hit free agency following the 2024 season.