SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- While David Stearns works the annual General Managers Meetings, the Brewers on Tuesday removed three more players from their 40-man roster, increasing the number of openings for prospect additions, waiver claims or other offseason acquisitions to six.
Right-handed relievers Yhonathan Barrios and Ben Rowen and catcher Josmil Pinto became free agents after they cleared waivers and were outrighted to Triple-A Colorado Springs. Rowen and Pinto appeared in the big leagues for the Brewers in September; Barrios pitched for them in 2015 but spent all of '16 recovering from right shoulder surgery.
"A big part of our strategy is maintaining that 40-man flexibility so that we can make opportunistic transactions," Stearns said during a break in the Meetings on Tuesday. "Whether it is waiver claims, trades, signings, 40-man roster spots are valuable, and you have to be careful to allocate them appropriately."
Some of those open roster spots will be filled by prospects on Nov. 18. That is the deadline to protect eligible Minor Leaguers from the Rule 5 Draft, and the Brewers have at least three -- and probably four -- players certain to be added, including top prospectLewis Brinson.
The GM Meetings are less about consummating deals and more about laying groundwork for them, and this year Stearns' attention is far less divided. At the same gathering in 2015, he was barely a month on the job and was still taking inventory of the assets, on the field and off, in his new organization.
This year is different.
"It feels a lot more settled this year," Stearns said. "We all know each other going through it the second time around. We had a full season and then offseason to plan for what's to come, so we're comfortable, and we'll see what the offseason brings."
Typically, talks during the GM Meetings carry over to the larger Winter Meetings in December. That gathering is Dec. 5-8, just outside Washington D.C.
"I think you're trying to get an understanding of what the needs are of other clubs, make sure everyone that you have the potential to trade with understands our needs and our objectives for the offseason," Stearns said. "It's an ongoing process of figuring out the matches."
For the Brewers, their biggest potential match involves Ryan Braun, the most significant player remaining amid Milwaukee's organizational rebuild.
Asked whether being in the same building as fellow GMs this week helps to define the market for Braun, Stearns said, "Whenever you're face-to-face with people, it certainly drives conversation if everyone is in the same spot. I don't know whether necessarily it will be here or later in the offseason, or the Winter Meetings, but we've already had productive conversations about a number of players on our roster, and I'm sure those dialogues will continue over the coming weeks and months."