Baseball Crank
Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 7, 2008

I'm still dumbfounded by the turn of events that has brought the Indians to the pass of trading CC Sabathia to the Brewers in exchange for outfield prospect Matt LaPorta, pitchers Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson and a player to be named later.

First, the take: LaPorta's numbers, at least, suggest a quality right-handed slugger, given his career minor league line of .294/.395/.616 in 411 at bats, mostly at AA this season, where he has 20 HR, 66 RBI and 44 walks in half a season. He's 23, so presumably he's pretty close to major league ready, but close to being on the older side for a AA slugger. Bryson appears to be a high-ceiling reliever prospect, 11.81 K/9, 2.64 BB/9 and just 0.41 HR/9 in 109 minor league innings mostly as a reliever, but he's 20 years old and hasn't pitched above A ball, so he's necessarily unproven against serious competition. Jackson, who started 7 games for the Brew Crew in 2006, does not appear to be much of a prospect. As for the Brewers, Sabathia is obviously a serious ace in his prime and on a roll; after 4 horrible starts to begin the season, the defending AL Cy Young winner has posted a 2.16 ERA in 14 starts, with 0.69 HR, 1.73 BB and 9.40 K/9. He's averaged 110 pitches per start in that stretch, with a single 98-pitch outing the only one below 100.

Sabathia has made clear that he'll be a free agent, so while the Brewers would seem an unlikely buyer, they are really just renting him, whereas the Indians really had to look to 2008 only. The list of things that have gone wrong with Cleveland is exhaustive, from injuries (Hafner, Martinez, Carmona, Westbrook) to a collapsed bullpen, all of which has offset an unbelievable year by Cliff Lee and what had, for a while, been a really outstanding performance from the rotation (Paul Byrd is 1-7 with a 7.40 ERA in his last 9 starts, Westbrook's pitched once since April, Carmona not since May, and the replacements have been less effective). While it's been rough from the outset for the Tribe, they were right in the thick of things with the AL Central in disarray; they were 22-19 and a game and a half in front of the division on May 15, but since then the team has been 15-32 and the staff aside from Sabathia, Lee, Rafael Perez and Scott Elarton has been a train wreck.

One thing that sticks out is that they are 6 games below their Pythagorean projection, and I'm starting to think we may have reached the point where Eric Wedge has to shoulder some of the blame for what no longer looks like just random chance; the team is 19 games below its projection for his tenure, including -5 in 2003 and -11 in 2006 (2007 they were +5, the only year they did not underachieve compared to their runs scored and allowed in the Wedge era).

Posted by Baseball Crank at 12:45 PM | Baseball 2008 | Comments (4) | TrackBack (0)

There has been, to my ears, little discussion over the merits of this trade. People thought that the Twins got jacked (although it is, at this moment, turning out fairly well for them) but no one is saying boo about the return on this when, at first glance, it does appear somewhat skinny. Anyone know if this was a situation where they absolutely were not going to trade him to an AL team so the trade options where therefore limited?

Posted by: jim at July 7, 2008 1:53 PM

I'm sure the Indians preferred not to send him to the Yankees....given that he was adamant about testing the free agent market, if LaPorta turns out to be a Nick Swisher or a Pat Burrell type big leaguer, you have to figure the Indians got some value back. People always overestimate what kind of return you can get for a rental of that nature.

Posted by: The Crank at July 7, 2008 2:10 PM

As an Indians fan color me less than thrilled. Any of these today for tomorrow type trade can't be really evaluated for a couple years. When they traded Colon to the Expos it turned out the third piece we got back was the best of the package. However, Sizemore was in A ball at the time so no one talked about him. That trade was talked about as though Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee were the key parts. Then they cut Phillips a couple years later because Wedge thought he had a bad attitude.

Posted by: largebill at July 7, 2008 5:22 PM

The Brewers are at a crossroad for the season. With CC they have played their cards in such a way and with a timing that if the team does not surge in the next three weeks they can still flip him again and possibly get more than they gave for him. Large, talk this afternoon on ESPN was that there was a good chance he would re-sign with the Tribe. My Royals really hope that doesn't happen. We want him in another division and in the nL is even better.

Posted by: maddirishman at July 8, 2008 1:54 AM
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