MILWAUKEE — With his team leading the NL Central Division by seven games going into a weekend series in Atlanta, David Stearns didn't need to hit a grand slam ahead of the trade deadline.
And while the Milwaukee Brewers' president of baseball operations did his due diligence and checked in on some of the bigger names available on the market, he instead added some depth to the bullpen by acquiring a pair of relievers ahead of Friday's 3 p.m. deadline.
By adding left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander John Curtiss along with infielder Eduardo Escobar earlier in the week, Stearns is confident the Brewers will be well-positioned to hold off any challengers for the division crown and, more importantly, make a deep run come October.
"We’re pleased with what we’ve been able to accomplish over the last couple of days," Stearns said after completing deals with the Tigers for Norris and Marlins for Curtiss. "It’s been a very active last couple of days for us from a conversation perspective, and I’m happy we were able to get these deals over the line that we were able to complete.”
Compared to some of the names involved in a flurry of moves during the most active trade deadline in recent memory, the Brewers' accusations aren't exactly the kind of high-profile moves fans might expect this time of year. But Milwaukee's lead over the division, combined with moves made by their closest competition, helped ease the pressure on Stearns to pull off a blockbuster.
The Cincinnati Reds went into deadline day second in the division, seven back of the Brewers in the division and five games behind the Padres for the second NL wild card spot. The Reds picked up three relievers on Thursday but made no other moves before the deadline.
St. Louis, 9½ games back of Milwaukee in the Central and 7½ back in the wild card race, added a pair of veteran starting pitchers in Jon Lester and J.A. Happ. Neither is having a particularly good year — Lester compiled a 5.02 ERA for Washington this season while Happ leads all of baseball with 74 earned runs — but the hope is both will help steady the Cardinals' rotation until Miles Mikolas and Jack Flaherty return from stints on the injured list.
The Cubs were the Central's most active team but not in a way that would suggest the Brewers need to worry. General manager Jed Hoyer essentially waved the white flag and started a rebuild by dealing Anthony Rizzo to the Yankees, Javy Baez to the Mets, Craig Kimbrel to the White Sox and Kris Bryant to the Giants.
Those moves followed deals that sent Ryan Tapera, Jake Marisnick, Joc Pederson, Trevor Williams and Andrew Chafin to new teams in the days and weeks leading up to the deadline.
"It was an interesting day," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "It always is and this year it turned out to be a very active day."
Even though Friday's trade frenzy likely did little to change the divisional race, most of the bigger names landed with teams the Brewers will more than likely face in the postseason.
San Francisco began the day atop the NL West and three games ahead of Milwaukee for the best record in the NL. The addition of Bryant is designed to help hold off the second-place Dodgers, who pulled off a blockbuster deal with Washington for right-handed starter Max Scherzer and infielder Trea Turner.
Just 24 hours earlier, Scherzer appeared destined for another NL West team, the Padres, who added former Pirates player and noted Brewers-killer Adam Frazier, Daniel Hudson and Marisnick to a team that currently holds the second NL wild card spot.
The NL East-leading Mets swung for the fences by landing Baez and are hoping it will be enough to hold off the Phillies, who added a pair of veteran starters with an eye on closing a 3½-game gap.
Atlanta, meanwhile, wasn't giving up its playoff hopes despite a four-game deficit, Ronald Acuna Jr's season-ending knee injury and the loss and uncertain status of Marcell Ozuna, who was arrested on domestic violence charges while rehabbing from a fractured left hand.
The Braves added outfielders Adam Duvall, Jorge Soler and Eddie Rosario as well as reliever Richard Rodriguez in four separate trades as they try to rally for a fourth consecutive division title starting this weekend against the Brewers.
"The team we're playing is going to have a different team tomorrow than we're playing today so we'll have to prepare for that," Counsell said.