One year ago at this time, the Brewers looked like good odds to either win the NL Wild Card or their first ever NL Central Division title.
But as we got deeper into the summer, the Brewers started faltering a bit, and those pesky Cubs from Chicago were right on their tail. If the Brewers were going to live up to their dreams of the postseason, they would need to make a move.
They'd become buyers at the trade deadline. The Brewers haven't been buyers for...well, a really long time. And after countless hours on the phones working other GM's, Doug Melvin finally got his catch, the man to help put us over the edge.
As you well know, that trade didn't really have the effect Melvin may have been looking for. Linebrink's career as a Brewer was short and inconsistent, and he's now pitching on the South Side of Chicago, long out of the memory of Brewers fans.
Milwaukee gave up prospects Will Inman, Joe Thatcher, and Steve Garrison to get Linebrink. Those three pitchers have a fairly decent chance of being on the Padres big league roster withing a couple of years.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say the Brewers lost that deal.
Looking back though, I can't say I disagree with the move. I supported it at the time and I'll support it today. The Brewers needed bullpen help, and Scott Linebrink was a good option.
It was one of those high risk, high reward scenarios—give up three decent prospects for a guy who may or may not be able to turn his season around in a new environment. It's a great deal if it would have worked out and earned the Brewers a trip to at least the playoffs.
You'll never find me arguing against a high risk, high reward scenario. Then again, I've always been a gambling man. I can't tell you how much money I've spent gambling money away in my life (Powerball, Crossword scratch-offs, Chip-In Casino in Escanaba, Michigan).
Was it stupid? In hindsight, yes. But hindsight's 20/20. I blew the money then hoping for a huge payday, similar to how Melvin blew the development of those prospects hoping for a huge payoff.
Melvin took a gamble last year, and I hope he doesn't drift from that school of thought this year.
So what do the Brewers need? Well, barring injury, I'd say the offense is in decent shape. There have been a lot of trade rumors regarding the Brewers in recent weeks, and I can't recall any of them including a hitter.
As Brewers Assistant G.M. Gord Ash said himself, the Brewers are looking for pitching. Specifically, starting pitching.
The Brewers staff is currently pitching better than they have all season, but as the old adage goes, you can never have too much pitching.
Remember in the beginning of the season when the Brewers had their pitching surplus? After they cut Claudio Vargas loose and lost Chris Capauno and Yovani Gallardo to injury, it became Milwaukee's biggest need.
While the fill-in guys have been pitching well, you never know when that next injury will occur or when one of them will go all Cappy '07 on us.
Let me finally get to the point of this column, if I may.
The biggest name this trade deadline season is the Indians C.C. Sabathia, and he seems to be the focus of the Brewers trade discussions as well.
The speculation around him coming to Milwaukee isn't as intense as it may have been a week ago, but I would say this deal has about a 30 percent chance of happening. A recent Ken Rosenthal column suggests the chances might be even better than that.
Realistically though, if the Brewers were to get Sabathia, it would likely just be a rental.
It's going to take a lot of money to get the 2007 AL Cy Young award winner to settle down in Milwaukee, much more money than I think we'd be able to, or are willing to, give.
With that said, I still say it's a trade the Brewers need to try to pull off.
First, let's look at the negatives to such a deal:
1) Goodbye LaPorta or Gamel (or...gulp...both)?
You'd think either Matt LaPorta or Mat Gamel would have to be included in a deal to acquire Sabathia, even though I've heard the Brewers are going to do whatever it takes not to let either of those guys go.
If I'm the Indians though, I don't make that trade without one of them. The Brewers do have a deep system though, and the Indians could definitely make this trade worth their while in the long run.
However, I don't see them taking a deal where Alcides Escobar is the headliner.
2) High Risk...
Imagine C.C. Sabathia in a Brewers uniform. Imagine him getting hurt in his first appearance in said uniform.
It's a real possibility, which would make any such deal one of the worst trades in baseball history that didn't involve Richie Sexson.
3) The Brewers wouldn't be able to sign Sabathia long term.
If the Brewers trade for Sabathia, it wouldn't be because they want to see him pitch at Miller Park for the next five years. It will be because they want to make the playoffs and win the World Series.
What better time to make a push at it than now? Again though, it's a high risk for a high reward.
Naturally now, the positives.
1) Think about it, it's C.C. Sabathia!!!
This guy is one of the best pitchers in the game. In his last four starts, he's gone 3-0 and posted a 1.13 ERA. Why we wouldn't be going after this guy? I really think this year's Brewers team is better equipped for a postseason run than last season's, but so are this year's Cubs team.
If the Brewers are going to keep up with them, they are going to need to bring in all the quality players they can. And how good would a Sheets/Sabathia/Suppan/Parra/BushClung rotation be?
2) We'd gain back the prospects we'd lose (in terms of draft picks anyway).
When the Brewers lost Scott Linebrink this offseason, they were rewarded with the 35th and 54th picks of this year's draft. Those picks are much higher than the picks we used to get guys like Inman.
Sabathia leaving, and not to mention if Sheets leaves, would net a good of picks as well. They may not replace a LaPorta or a Gamel, but it would be a good start.
3) ...High Reward.
The Scott Linebrink trade was looked at as a way for the Brewers to make the 2007 postseason. A C.C. Sabathia trade could be the ticket for a 2008 World Series run. If the Brewers have to make a few sacrifices in order to get their first World Series title, I'd say that's a pretty acceptable trade-off.
Let me re-iterate though, the Indians are not going to just give Sabathia away. The Brewers are going to have to pay a heavy price to get him, and it's going to have to come from the farm system.
There is also speculation Milwaukee could settle for a guy Like Greg Maddux or Randy Wolf, but I think that would just be playing it safe. I say we go after the big prize. I say we get Sabathia.
But then again, I've always been a gambling man.
For more by Bart Winkler, read his blog, The Bucky Channel.