Thanks to a Vesting Option, the Mets Will Have to Wait Another Year to Land Executive David Stearns
For the last two Major League Baseball (“MLB”) off-seasons, David Stearns, the current President of Baseball Operations for the Milwaukee Brewers, has reportedly been linked to the New York Mets. Will David Stearns finally join the Mets front office now that the team’s current president, Sandy Alderson, is stepping down? Probably not.
In only his third year as general manager (“GM”), New York native Stearns, 37, led the Brewers to a 96-win season that was one win away from reaching the World Series in 2018. From 2018-2021, the Brewers made four consecutive postseasons with a payroll half the size of New York’s (the Mets had zero playoff appearances in that span). And for the third straight year, the Mets will need permission from the Brewers to interview Stearns.
The Brewers have a unique vesting option on Stearns contract which states that if the Brewers made the World Series under his tenure, he would become a free agent at the end of this season. But since the Brewers failed to make the playoffs this year and subsequently the World Series, Stearns will remain under contract through 2023.
There are four types of contract options in MLB - Team, Player, Mutual, and Vesting - with each deciding whether the last year of a player’s contract will be exercised or not. Club options grant the team the right to implement the player’s final year, while a player option gives the player the power to decide. For a mutual option, both the club and player must agree to exercise the option. Conversely, vesting options become guaranteed if the player reaches certain playing time or performance-based incentive thresholds. Vesting options are extremely uncommon. Of the 60+ MLB options that may be exercised at the end of this season, Carlos Carrasco (of the New York Mets coincidentally) is the only player who has a vested option, and of the 50 options that may be exercised after next season, only two are vested. Last year there were none.
While already a rare practice in baseball, the vesting option in David Stearns’ contract is even more unique because he is not a player. Yet, he is being incentivized for on-field production. Furthermore, where most vesting options are exercised for meeting specific performance-based thresholds, Stearns’ option is exercised if he does not reach a certain milestone.
There are a few reasons why the Brewers and Stearns may have opted to structure the contract this way. From Stearns’ perspective, it gives him an additional year of job security. Making a World Series is not easy, and it is even harder for an organization like the Brewers who do not operate on the same budget as bigger market organizations. The vesting option gives Stearns an extra year of job security, as well as an opportunity for a raise one year sooner (with the Brewers or another organization) if the Brewers were to make a World Series appearance. On the flip side, the Brewers have an additional year with Stearns before a richer team, like the Mets, can lure him away with more money.
The Mets have tried to poach Stearns from the Brewers the past two off-seasons. In 2020, he was heavily linked to the Mets GM opening, but the Brewers refused to let Stearns interview for the role. The candidate the Mets hired instead was fired after about a month on the job when news broke that he had sexually harassed a reporter four years prior. His replacement was then let go in September of that same season after being arrested and charged with driving under the influence. When the Mets were in search of a new GM again during the 2021 offseason, Stearns was once again heavily linked to the job and, again, the Brewers declined to allow him to meet with the Mets.
With the Mets now in search of Sandy Alderson’s successor, David Stearns name will surely come up again. However, the Brewers failure to make the World Series means the Mets will most likely have to wait until 2024 to get their guy.
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