June 19, 2009 at 10:47 am by Capitol Avenue Club under Draft, Milwaukee Brewers, New York Yankees, Pitching, Transactions
Now that the 2009 draft is in the books we can properly evaluate the CC Sabathia trade. For review, in June of 2008 the Brewers shipped Matt LaPorta, Rob Bryson, Zack Jackson, and Michael Brantley to Cleveland for 3 months of CC Sabathia. Milwaukee got exactly what they wanted, a front-line pitcher to push them into the post-season. CC Sabthia was exactly that, going 11-2 in 17 starts for the Brewers posting a 1.65 ERA and 1.00 WHIP with 128 strikeouts in 130 and 2/3 innings. He also racked up 7 complete games and 3 shutouts, both league highs when the rest of his competition had a full season to accumulate CG’s and SHO’s. It was one of the more dominant stretches of pitching we’ve seen. Maybe the most dominant post-trade stretch of pitching we’ve seen since Doyle Alexander in 1987 went 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for the Tigers after being traded from the Atlanta Braves for a certain player named John Smoltz.
Sabathia threw an average of 7 and 2/3 innings per start. He took pressure off of the bullpen and gave the Brewers a chance to win in all of his starts. And if the Brewers’ goal was to make the post-season, this move was exactly what they needed, because they got a wild-card berth, edging the New York Mets by 1 game. And there’s little chance they would’ve been able to do so without Sabathia.
But it was taxing on everyone. The players were tired by the end of the season due to having to compete at the highest level because every game was that important. The manager, a fairly good one by the name of Ned Yost, was fired with 12 games remaining in the regular season, an unprecedented move. And CC Sabathia faded a bit down the stretch due to gross overuse and gave up 14 runs in September after giving up only 17 in the previous 2 months with Milwaukee. It showed most of all in his lone post-season start that October when he lasted only 3 and 2/3 innings giving up 5 ER and struggling with control, walking an unprecedented 4 batters (he walked 5 in 6 innings during his first Brewers start, walked 3 on one occasion with the Brewers, and didn’t walk more than 2 in all of his other starts wearing a Milwaukee jersey).
So the fact that the Brewers didn’t make it farther than the NLDS and lost to the eventual world champion Phillies is a disappointment, but the fact that the Brewers got back to the post-season, somewhere they hadn’t been in a long time, makes losing LaPorta and company a little bit easier to swallow.
And the fact that the Brewers would offer Arbitration to both Sabathia and Ben Sheets and receive 4 compensory picks, presumably 2 first-rounders and 2 sandwich picks, made it even easier to swallow. The Brewers didn’t expect to be able to re-sign Sabathia. They made an offer which Sabathia’s agent scoffed off while they negotiated with the club everyone expected Sabathia to sign with, the New York Yankees. Ben Sheets is another story of how flawed the compensation system is, but that won’t be covered in this space. The Brewers offered Sabathia arbitration, he declined, and signed with the New York Yankees. And they were set to receive the Yankees’ first round pick. Until the Yankees signed Teixeira, which bumped them down a round and the Brewers received the Yankees’ second round pick along with a sandwich pick. Now, Sabathia certainly had more of an impact on the Brewers than Teixeira had on the Angels. Sabathia lead the Brewers to a playoff berth. The Angels already had a playoff berth in the bag when they acquired Teixeira. Teixeira represented a commitment to October for the Angels, but like the Brewers, they also lost in the first round. So Teixeira took them nowhere, and Sabathia took the Brewers from an average team to a playoff team. The Angels also had the best record in baseball in 2008, 100-62. While the Brewers didn’t have a bad season, they certainly didn’t have a 100-win season. Yet some how Elias thinks that the Angels deserve the Yankees first round pick for Teixeira more than the Brewers do for Sabathia. But enough about that. Let’s look at the draft picks the Brewers took to “complete” the Sabathia trade.
With their compensation round pick, the Brewers took an athletic outfielder from Tennessee (The University of) named Kentrail Davis. Davis won’t be able to stick in center due to his arm and will have to play left. He’s a line-drive hitter with tons of speed. Sort of in the Carl Crawford mold. He turned down first round money out of HS and elected to go to Tennessee and he’s currently a draft-eligible sophomore, so it’ll take quite a load of cash to sign him.
And with their 2nd round compensory pick, the Brewers selected Max Walla, a high-school outfielder whose bat is his best tool. He may not have the range or arm to play the OF at the highest level and may end up being a 1B or DH. He has lots of raw power and draws many comparisons to Brian Giles. He’s committed to Oklahoma State and it always takes a bit more to sign the guys who have a back-up plan.
In short, neither of the picks really jump out at me. They could develop into super-stars, especially Walla, but they don’t thrill me. Not like having a pitcher go 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA does.
So, Matt LaPorta, Zach Jackson, Rob Bryson, and Michael Brantley for 18 starts from CC Sabathia (post-season included), Max Walla (if they sign him), and Kentrail Davis (if they sign him). And most importantly, a post-season berth. Was it worth it? Depends on how much you value getting to the post-season. For Brewers fans, I think it certainly was. It gave them a reason to be faithful in the team. I would’ve liked to see them get a little bit more in the way of draft pick compensation (the fact that the Angels got the Yankees first rounder is disgusting to me). And we won’t be able to properly evaluate the trade until all of the involved players have finished their careers. But unless one of the players they traded ends up having a Hall of Fame career while their draft picks don’t, I don’t think you can say it was a bad move for the Brewers. They gave up a lot, but they got the ultimate prize, the sweet taste of October baseball. And 2 draft picks to boot.