Monday, July 7, 2008

The Brew Crew Gets a 2nd Ace

Today, the Brewers parted ways with their #1 prospect and 3 others for Indians' ace C.C. Sabathia and a chance at the playoffs. They gave up outfielder Matt LaPorta, pitchers Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson and the infamous PTBNL (player to be named later). In the words of Brewers' GM Doug Melvin, "We're going for it."

Sabathia joins Ben Sheets at the top of the rotation, giving the Brewers one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. The Cubs are currently leading the NL Central, but the Brewers have been gaining (now only 4 games back) and the Cubs have got to be feeling the heat even more now.

The Brewers have got to like their chances now. Their offense has really started to click, as they've led the NL in SLG% over the last month and ranked 4th in runs. That's not to say that they've been winning simply by out-slugging everyone, though. Over those same last 30 days, the pitching staff has the NL's 2nd best ERA. What does a team that is playing as well as anyone need? A 2nd ace starting pitcher of course.

I especially like the fact they went and made the deal now, as opposed to waiting until closer to the deadline. Sabathia is a starting pitcher, so his contributions are limited to once every 5 days, so the earlier they get him in their starting rotation the better chance he has of actually making a difference.

Many "experts" around the country have said that the package of prospects given up for Sabathia is less than he could have netted. LaPorta is a top 5 hitting prospect, but he's the only elite prospect heading the Indians' way. Most predicted Sabathia to require 2 top notch prospects. I don't really think that would've happened though. One of the biggest reasons why the Indians chose to deal him was because of his interest in testing free agency. I don't know if you could expect someone to give up two of their best prospects for someone that they don't have much of a hope of signing past the 2 month rental period. The recent firing of Seattle GM Bill Bavasi could possibly be in the backs of other GM's minds as well. There are many things that factored into the Mariners' collapse this year, but Bavasi's decision to trade away as much talent as he did for Erik Bedard was definitely one of them.

All in all, it seems like a pretty fair deal all around. The Brewers get a big boost to their playoff aspirations and the biggest prospect they gave up was blocked at the major league level. The Indians get an elite prospect in LaPorta, two arms for system depth in Jackson and Bryson, and a PTBNL - could possibly be 3B Taylor Green. Here's a quick run down of the prospects included:

Matt LaPorta could probably step in and help Cleveland in leftfield or firstbase, where he played in college, right now. He has big time power, and it's not raw-future-projection power. It's here and now. He's now hit 32 HR in his first 114 professional games. He's a smart player, with a good approach at the plate, and a tremendous work ethic. He's the type of hitter you dream about penciling into your 3-4 spot for years to come.

Zach Jackson is a lefty with stuff that can play at the major league level, but hasn't been able to find success in the majors yet. A change of scenery could help him, but it didn't really help him last time, when he was sent to Milwaukee from Toronto in the Lyle Overbay trade.

Rob Bryson is a 20 year old reliever in Single-A with a good power fastball/slider combination. He's racking up strikeouts and has a chance to become a starter, (he made 4 starts last year and 5 so far this year) but his future likely lies in the bullpen.

The PTBNL will be one of two players. They have until the end of the minor league season to decide which one it will be. There is a rumor that it could be Taylor Green, who hit .327/.406/.516 at Single-A last year and is hitting .295/.380/.444 at Single-A Advanced this year. He also has a solid 93:107 BB:K ratio over the last year and a half. I can't imagine that 4th player getting any better than Green.

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