The C.C. Sabathia Era in Cleveland is officially finished: The sliding Indians have agreed to ship the left-handed Cy Young winner to the Milwaukee Brewers in a blockbuster deal that could have a dramatic impact on the NL Central race.
The deal, pending medical examinations and paperwork, will send Sabathia to Milwaukee for four prospects; top outfielder Matt LaPorta, pitchers Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson and a player to be named.
With Sabathia and All-Star Ben Sheets atop their rotation, and with each eligible for free agency this winter, the Brewers clearly are reaching for the stars now. Milwaukee, which has not participated in the playoffs since 1982, moved into a tie for second place with St. Louis on Sunday, just 3½ games behind the Chicago Cubs.
The expected addition of Sabathia should provide an incredible lift to the Brewers, who already rank sixth in the NL in ERA and field a young lineup that took last season's playoff chase into the final week of September before falling out.
Sabathia last started for Cleveland against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday, coming away with a no-decision in a 6-5, 10-inning loss. Sabathia started slowly this season -- 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA -- but over his past 14 starts has gone 6-5 with a 2.16 ERA.
He professed a love for Cleveland and a desire to return, but the Indians in talks declined to offer the kind of long-term -- six or seven years -- deal that the New York Mets granted Johan Santana (six years, $137.5 million).
With Sabathia and Sheets, 10-2 with a 2.77 ERA, the Brewers will have a right-left combination atop their rotation that is unsurpassed in the NL -- and a 1-2 punch that could be devastating in the postseason, if the Brewers can get there. And, of course, if each pitcher can stay healthy. Sheets in particular has a history of nagging injuries.
|Sabathia sleepwalked early this season, but is 6-5 with a 2.16 ERA in his last 14 starts. (US Presswire)|
Tabbed by Baseball America as the top overall prospect in Milwaukee's organization, LaPorta, 23, came to the Brewers as a first baseman but, with Prince Fielder appearing to be ensconced there for the long-term, they moved him to left field.
But the Brewers this season moved slugger Ryan Braun to left from third base at the major league level. LaPorta, known as a bat whose glove is almost an afterthought, is viewed by scouts more as an American League player, where he could wind up as a designated hitter.
While the Brewers strengthen themselves dramatically with Sabathia, the Indians, who won 96 games and moved to within one victory of a World Series appearance in 2007, appear poised for a dramatic alteration: They designated closer Joe Borowski for assignment Friday, and they struck quickly in moving Sabathia well before the July 31 trade deadline.
And, clubsthe Indians have spoken to say they're preparing to move significant other pieces.
"They've had their scouts out looking at other clubs' farm systems, Triple-A, Double-A, even Class A," one NL executive says. "They've had guys out looking at the farm systems of contenders looking to add players -- the Cardinals, the Cubs, the Phillies, Milwaukee.