PHOENIX — Rest assured, David Stearns and his staff don’t pull names out of a hat, throw darts at a wall or spin a giant wheel when going through their player acquisition process.
It might seem that way on the surface after Stearns, the Brewers’ president of baseball operations, replaced 14 players this offseason who appeared on the team’s National League wild card game roster — especially when most of those signings involved names that weren’t exactly high-profile.
But there’s a method to Stearns’ madness and despite its chaotic appearance, there is a plan, there’s logic and there’s purpose to each of those moves.
Not counting Ryon Healy, who is on the roster on a major league/minor league split contract, Stearns signed 10 free agents and all of them come to the Brewers with significant experience.
“We’re not going to ask them to play baseball for the first time, so they know what to expect,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “These are guys who’ve had a significant amount of big league success so I think we’re in a good spot. “
The six position players signed over the winter — outfielder Avisail Garcia, infielders Jedd Gyorko, Justin Smoak, Eric Sogard and Logan Morrison, and utility man Brock Holt — all have at least 600 plate appearances while playing at least seven seasons in the majors.
Smoak leads that group, having amassed 1,250 at-bats of the course of his 10-year big league career, the past five with Toronto.
“For us new guys who are veteran players (and) have been around the league for a little while, that’s always a comfort factor, rather than being a young guy coming up,” Smoak said.
Stearns signed three pitchers over the winter — left-hander Brett Anderson and right-handers David Phelps and Josh Lindblom — with similar resumes. Anderson has logged 997⅓ innings in his 11-year career, while Phelps has covered 588 innings over the course of seven years and Lindblom followed five up-and-down years in the major leagues with five dominant seasons in Korea, where he pitched in 130 games.
And all 10 players are also around the same age — between 28 and 33 — which again, is not a coincidence.
The Brewers, like most teams, are an analytics-driven organization and the numbers are pretty clear that players more often than not compile their best seasons somewhere in that five-year age span.
Counsell pointed to that trend when discussing the addition of Garcia, which on the surface appeared to create a logjam in the outfield.
“It’s the spot where we think guys have the chance to put up their best seasons,” Counsell said. “That’s why (signing Garcia) fit, even though on first blush it seemed like it didn’t fit. But it does. He’s at the right age, at the right amount of experience to do some special things.”
Infielder Luis Urias will get a follow-up examination later this week as he continues recovering from surgery on his left wrist.
Urias has been held back from almost all baseball action so far and isn’t expected to be ready to go when the regular season starts on March 26.
“He’s not allowed to have a glove on his hand or catch a baseball, so that slows him down,” Counsell said. “He’ll see the doctor and then we’ll see what’s next for him.”
Weather in Phoenix has been picture-perfect since camp opened, with clear skies and temperatures flirting with 80 degrees.
That’s expected to change Saturday as a cold front is forecast to move through the valley and drop up to an inch of rain in some spots, which could wipe out the Brewers’ Cactus League opener against the Texas Rangers in Surprise, Ariz.
“We’ll survive,” Counsell said. “If we get rained out, the schedule will get changed but we’ll survive.”
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