At Long Last, Matt Arnold Gets His Chance As He Takes Over The Milwaukee Brewers’ Front Office

In the seven years he’s spent working along side David Stearns running the Milwaukee Brewers baseball operations, Matt Arnold has had plenty of opportunities to go elsewhere, strike out on his own and build his own team.

But each and every time, Arnold opted to stay with Stearns and the Brewers.

Arnold’s loyalty has finally paid off. After seven years of serving as right-hand man to David Stearns, Arnold was named the Brewers’ president of baseball operations when Stearns unexpectedly stepped down from the position with a year remaining on his contract.

“I’ve worked for 10 different general managers during the course of my career, certainly not necessarily by design, so I think I know what a good situation is and this is a great situation,” Arnold said during a press conference to announce the transition. “Whether I’m at the head of the table or have a seat at the table, it’s somewhere I wanted to be.”

From the outside looking in, it may appear to some that the Brewers are “taking a chance” on Arnold or playing it safe by promoting from within instead of trying to look outside the organization for an influx of fresh ideas or a new philosophy.

In reality, handing things over to Arnold is a reflection of both his qualifications as well as a belief in the philosophy and culture he and Stearns have built since coming aboard in 2015.

Arnold’s career in baseball began in 2000 when the Oxnard, Calif. native was studying Economics at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He landed a job with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he did a little bit of everything and used that experience to get hired two years later by the Texas Rangers and then, as the Reds’ assistant director of pro scouting before joining the Rays organization as a professional scout in 2009.

Stearns hadn’t even officially been on the job for a month when he hired Arnold to serve as his assistant general manager in Oct. 2015. The duo were tasking with completely rebuilding a franchise that had only been to the playoffs twice in the previous 33 seasons, was coming off a 94-loss season and most of its core talent had passed its prime while the farm system was nearly devoid of top prospects.

Arnold was a perfect choice. In nine seasons with the Rays, Arnold had worked his way up the organizational ladder from a scout to director of pro scouting then director of player personnel which allowed him to work alongside Rays’ executives Andrew Friedman and Matt Silverman on everything from player acquisitions to contract negotiations.

Before Arnold left for Milwaukee, the Rays had posted winning records in six of the last seven seasons, won at least 90 games five times during that stretch and made four playoff appearances including a trip to the World Series in 2008, all while operating with one of the lowest payrolls in all of Major League Baseball.

The Rays achieved that level of success by putting an emphasis on developing young talent, the same approach that Stearns had learned during his three seasons as an assistant to GM Jeff Lunhow who was in the process of turning the Houston Astros from a team that lost 100 games in back-to-back seasons into an eventual Wold Series champion and perennial American League power.

Together, they formed a formidable duo. What was expected to be a painful, multi-year rebuild was accelerated by a surprising performance in 2017 when the Brewers led the division for much of the first half and remained in the hunt for a playoff berth until the second-to-last day of the regular season.

They’d finally break into the playoffs a year later, repeating the feat in the following three seasons as well, and as a result both Stearns and Arnold began drawing the attention of teams across the industry hoping to replicate Milwaukee’s success.

Arnold interviewed for the Angels’ general manager job two years ago. The job ultimately went to Perry Minasian but the Brewers, recognizing the value of their front office co-pilots, opted to hand the GM title to Arnold while also promoting Stearns to president of baseball operations.

The move did little to prevent other teams from trying to poach either executive. Last winter, the Mets requested permission to interview both men to run their baseball operation under new owner Steve Cohen.

Arnold ultimately removed his name from consideration for the job. Instead, he and owner Mark Attanasio worked out a contract extension that would keep Arnold around for the foreseeable future and also ensure continuity and stability if and when Stearns decided to step down.

“You try to build an organization so that if anyone leaves, including at the very top, if you want to use the analogy, the plane can keep flying,” Attanasio said. “That is true of the people we’ve had throughout our organization with the success that we’ve had and people moving to other teams, there’s almost always promotion from within.

“Matt’s contract, when he was promoted to general manager, it’s a long-term contract and it anticipated that he could be in the No. 1 position or the senior-most position. It’s already been planned for. We’ve prepared for this for a while now.”

Nobody was happier for Arnold for Stearns, himself, who plans to remain in Milwaukee while serving in an advisory capacity to Arnold and the Brewers’ top management.

“Matt is a premier executive, Stearns said. “He has declined multiple outside opportunities to remain committed to the Brewers. Matt’s committed to Milwaukee. He has earned this opportunity and I’m very confident the organization is in great hands.”