Sunday, August 1, 2010

Sunday Funday - The C.C. Sabathia Trade

The 2010 MLB trade deadline passed without any action by Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin. With the Brewers falling out of the playoff race, many pundits thought that the Brewers would be sellers at the trade deadline. The two most likely candidates to move were Prince Fielder and Corey Hart. Doug Melvin never received a big offer for either player so both players are still on the Brewers roster. If you look back at my most recent Wednesday What Happened - The Carlos Lee Trade Post, it is probably better that Melvin kept Fielder and Hart in the fold.

Since most Brewers fans are bummed about their recent losing streak, let's take a look back to more positive times in Brewer history. The best in-season trade in Milwaukee Brewers history, the acquisition of CC Sabathia, on July 7, 2008. The Brewers traded Matt LaPorta (1B/OF), Michael Brantley (OF), Zach Jackson (LHP), and Rob Bryson (RHP) to the Cleveland Indians for CC Sabathia (LHP).

When the Brewers acquired Sabathia they were in 3rd place in the N.L. Central, but were only a half-game out of the N.L. Wild Card. The Brewers had not made the playoffs since 1982, so Doug Melvin went for broke in "renting" Sabathia for the rest of the 2008 season.

The Brewers needed to beat the Cubs on the last day of the 2008 regular season (Sunday, September 28, 2008) to clinch their first playoff berth in 26 years. Sabathia took the hill on three days rest to pitch a complete game, allowing only one unearned run. Couple Sabathia's effort with Ryan Braun's two-run home run off Bobby Howry with two out in the bottom of the 8th innings and the Brewers beat the N.L. Central division winning Cubs 3 to 1 to clinch their first playoff berth in 26 years.

Sabathia took the hill on short rest again in Game 2 of the Division Series in Philadelphia but the magic ran out in the playoffs. The Brewers were eliminated from the 2008 playoffs in four games by the Philadelphia Phillies.

Despite his impending free agency, Sabathia made numerous starts on short rest and still went 11-2 (7 complete games, 3 shutouts) with a 1.65 ERA. Sabathia's performance was so impressive that he finished 6th in the N.L. MVP vote and 5th in the N.L. Cy Young voting despite starting only 17 games for the Brewers.

After the 2008 season the Brewers offered Sabathia a five-year, $100 million contract. Sabathia justifiably spurned that offer in favor of the Yankee's gargantuan seven-year, $161 million offer. Sabathia was a "Class A" free agent (ranked in the top 20% of players at his position) so losing Sabathia should have netted the Brewers the top pick of the Yankees and a compensatory pick between the first and second round in the 2009 MLB amateur draft.

Unfortunately for the Brewers, the New York Yankees splashed a ton of money in the 2009 off-season signing three "Class A" free agents: Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia, and AJ Burnett. Based on some odd MLB formula Teixeira ranked first, Sabathia ranked second, and Burnett ranked third. As a result, the Brewers got the Yankee's second round selections (73rd overall) instead of their first round selection (25th overall). It could be worse, the Toronto Blue Jays received the Yankees third round selection (104th overall) instead of 25th overall.

With the supplement pick, 39th overall, the Brewers selected center fielder Kentrail Davis (5'9" and 195 pounds) out of the University of Tennessee. Davis is doing okay in the minor leagues.

With the Yankee's second round pick, 73rd overall, the Brewers selected right fielder Maxwell Walla (5'11" and 195 pounds) out of Albuquerque Academy in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Walla is struggling in rookie ball.

If the Brewers would have gotten the Yankee's first round pick (25th), they would have had two picks in a row: 25th (Yankee's pick) and 26th (own pick) in the 2009 MLB amateur draft. With the 25th pick the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (as compensation for losing Teixeira) selected center fielder Mike Trout (6'1" and 217 pounds) out of Millville Senior High School in Millville, New Jersey. According to ESPN's Keith Law, Trout is his third-best prospect in baseball. With the 26th pick the Brewers selected right handed pitcher Eric Arnett (6'5" and 230 pounds) out of Indiana University. While Trout is tearing up the minor leagues, Arnett is struggling mightily...oh dang.

The players that the Indians acquired for Sabathia are going through their own struggles. In 440 major league plate appearances Matt LaPorta is batting .251 (100 hits, 23 doubles, and 1 triples) with 12 homeruns, 89 strikeouts, 35 walks, 56 runs, and 44 runs batted in (but as I stated above, RBI is a flawed stat). LaPorta was the main player targeted in the trade, but he has yet to fulfill the lofty expectations that come with being "the guy the Indians got for Sabathia". That said, when (not if) Prince Fielder moves on, LaPorta was projected to take over for Prince at first base. Since the Brewers minor league system is so thin at first base they recently decided to move Mat Gamel (at least part time) to first base. Let's check back in a few years to see whether LaPorta or Gamel has a better pro career.

In 235 major league plate appearances Michael Brantley is batting .238 (51 hits, 6 doubles, and 0 triples) with 1 homerun, 32 strikeouts, 18 walks, 22 runs, and 18 runs batted in (although RBI is a flawed stat). Brantley is still young and with how bad the Indians are right now his playing time should only increase. Similar to LaPorta taking over for Prince, Brantley would fit nicely in place of Corey Hart in 2011 or 2012.

Zach Jackson appeared sparingly for the Cleveland Indians in 2008 and 2009 (63.1 innings over 12 games) and was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays (the team that drafted him 32nd overall in the 2004 MLB Draft) on January 9, 2010 for a player to be named.

Rob Bryson has not pitched in the major leagues yet, but Bryson was the lowest rated prospect included in the deal so exceptions are not that high for Bryson.

Using a weird trade transitive property the Cleveland Indians got Matt LaPorta, Michael Brantley, and Rob Bryson for Kentrail Davis and Maxwell Walla. If you look at the trade in those terms, the Indians got the better end of the deal but you can't dismiss what Sabathia did for the Brewers organization.

The Brewers never would have made the playoffs without Sabathia. Besides that, Sabathia helped boost attendance numbers in a big way for not only 2008 but the spill over effect for 2009. In order for fans to get a guaranteed playoff ticket for 2008, they had to buy at least partial season tickets for 2009. Miller Park opened in 2001 and a quick look at the attendance numbers alone justify the price of acquiring Sabathia:
2001: 2,811,041 (34,704 per game), 7th of 16 in the N.L.
2002: 1,969,153 (24,311 per game), 11th of 16 in the N.L.
2003: 1,700,354 (20,992 per game), 13th of 16 in the N.L.
2004: 2,062,382 (25,462 per game), 13th of 16 in the N.L.
2005: 2,211,023 (27,297 per game), 11th of 16 in the N.L.
2006: 2,335,643 (28,835 per game), 10th of 16 in the N.L.
2007: 2,869,144 (35,422 per game), 8th of 16 in the N.L.
2008: 3,068,458 (37,882 per game), 6th of 16 in the N.L.
2009: 3,037,451 (37,499 per game), 6th of 16 in the N.L.
Projected 2010: 2,816,289 (34,769 per game), 6th of 16 in the N.L.

The Brewers drew 3 million people for the first time in franchise history in 2008 thanks in large part to Sabathia. As stated above, the spill over effect helped the Brewers eclipse 3 million in 2009 as well. The Sabathia Trade gave Brewers fans hope they desperately needed.

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