The View From Seat 113: CC Sabathia's Debut

Jerry Burnes@@JerryBurnesAnalyst IJuly 8, 2008

Setting my bias aside as a Cubs fan, CC Sabathia's debut as a Milwaukee Brewer was not impressive.

The newly crowned Cheesehead scuffled through six innings, allowing five hits, three runs, two earned runs, five walks, and five strikeouts in the 97-pitch victory.

The stat line doesn't spell out a bad start.

What does is the fact that the Brewers gave up two of their best prospects, including top prospect Matt LaPorta, for the burly left hander from Cleveland.

For what the Brewers traded, and what the future may hold for them, Sabathia better get a hold on things.

I say this because there are two things guaranteed.

The first is that Sabathia will be a free agent at the end of this year, and so will longtime Brewers ace Ben Sheets, who, when healthy, like this season, is downright sick.

The second is that the Brewers have new contracts coming to Prince Fielder, J.J. Hardy, and Corey Hart. With a small-market team, either Sheets or Sabathia will be odd man out. The bad news is the Cubs have deep pockets, new ownership or not.

The one thing not guaranteed is a Brewers trip to the playoffs. With their two top pitchers becoming free agents, the Brew Crew needs to make the playoffs or risk losing both.

Sheets has never seen the postseason, and Sabathia is unlikely to sign with a team that won't get him back there. If this is the case, the Brewers went all-in this July and came back practically broke, as they would lose two ace pitchers and an eventual stud LaPorta.

Now, you enter in the free-agency market.

Assuming Milwaukee's playoff impotence and small budget prevents them from keeping Sheets and Sabathia, the market for these two is deep.

CC is a lefty and generated a ton of trade talk as it is, and Sheets is showing what he has this year. He's one of the best when healthy, and that won't be overlooked.

The Yankees will surely be interested, and that will garner a look by the Red Sox (it's just natural for them to duel over a free agent). The Mets are always looking to spend money, and the Indians still have a shot at Sabathia if they rebound this season.

Then there's the division rival Cubs.

Even with Sam Zell in the owner's box, the Cubs are wheeling and dealing, adding Rich Harden just last night. With a sale looming, the Cubs will be able to spend more money on a free agent if it ever goes through, especially if they don't win it all this year.

Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella are committed to winning. Enter potential owner Mark Cuban as a variable, and it's not out of the question that the Cubs could land both star pitchers.

That's the last thing the Brewers want to see, too.

So whether they resign Sabathia or not, the Brewers are to expect more than mediocrity from their new ace. It's not just this season that Milwaukee is fighting for; they gave up a good part of their future, seemingly for one playoff run.

In this writer's eyes, Sabathia's six innings of wild, mediocre, and average pitching does not warrant the trade made by the Crew.

Like the Cubs with Harden, Sabathia is high risk, high reward.

Only last year when he went 19-7 did Sabathia show how much talent he really has. Not to mention that at 290 pounds, he's not exactly going to age like a fine wine. And like fellow southpaw Barry Zito, Sabathia wants a long-term deal.

With the start CC got off to this season, and his most recent performance with Milwaukee, a red flag is starting to rise.

Granted, we have seen the Sabathia of 2007 in his last 14 starts before the trade, but this is a guy who has really put together two great seasons (2001, 2007) and is being asked to carry a team to the playoffs.

He's heralded as one of the best starters in the league, but aside from 2007, Sabathia has yet to show enough consistency to garner such trade value.

The most consistency he has shown is that he is a just above .500 pitcher. His four best seasons in the league include his 19-7 record in 2007, 17-5 in his rookie season of 2001, then it drops down to 15-10 in 2005, and 13-9 in 2003.

I won't even mention how Sabathia tanked against Boston in the ALCS last season.

One thing is for sure in my eyes about this trade. The "mega deal" for Sabathia that has been hyped since mid May will hardly turn out to be worth it for the Cheesehead faithful, while the Indians can sit back and wait for a big prospect in LaPorta to flourish.

The hype was that this trade would turn the Brewers into the best team in the National League, or at least in the Central. But looking at their past and Sabathia's past, Milwaukee will be at home in October, and Sabathia will be on the first train out of Wisconsin.


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