A former Cy Young winner, a former All-Star starter, or neither? That will be the decision Milwaukee Brewers general manager Doug Melvin and owner Mark Attanasio will have to make during the off-season.
It is very debatable as to what the Brewers should do, but given the facts with what has happened in the past, some things are for certain. That being the reality that the Brewers are a small-market team and are not going to want to go out and go overboard as far as what kind of money that they give to their players.
So with the two soon to be biggest named free agents this offseason on the roster, the Brewers might just have to swallow their pride and let both players leave. By doing this, the Brewers would receive compensatory draft picks during the first year player draft next year for both players because they would be Class A free agents.
It would seem this would be the obvious choice by the Milwaukee Brewers given their past history in spending money. Also given the fact that to keep both of these players on their roster, over the tenure of the contracts Sheets and Sabathia would want, it would probably amass to more than 200 million dollars.
Now, Milwaukee's owner Mark Attanasio certainly has that kind of money, but with players like first time All-Star Corey Hart, and big bopper Prince Fielder also looking for big bucks through contract extensions, it makes it less likely that the Brewers would retain either Sheets or Sabathia this coming off-season.
Let's play general manager of a baseball club for a few minutes though. Let's say we're Doug Melvin, and Mark Attanasio comes to us, and says, "Doug, I know that we can still make a playoff push every year if we keep just one of these guys. Which player do you think we should try and keep?"
The answer to that question is debatable and can be broken down into past performances, current outlook, and future outlook.
Sabathia's past performances speak for themselves, as during the 2007 regular season, he was the American League Cy Young Award winner. However, during the playoffs he seemed to disappear when faced against tough hitting. Here's a guy who is only 28 years of age, and is a former First Round (20th) overall pick of the Cleveland Indians.
Sabathia's current outlook for the rest of the season looks very bright. Since coming over from to the NL from the AL, he has shown that he can also bring a bright spot to the Brewers by being able to give them that 9th hitter in the lineup. He hit an absolute moonshot in Los Angeles while still with the Indians against Chan Ho Park, and also hit a home run in his second game with Milwaukee.
His extended current outlook is that he is pitching in a lesser league now, with less big-time hitters to worry about. He has pitched unbeleivably well since coming over to the Brewers, which should raise his asking price this season.
The future outlook for Sabathia is green. Green with money. A pitcher of his stature should accumulate $100 - $150 million dollars in total contract money when becoming a free agent this off-season. That does not bode well for Milwaukee Brewer fans as the team more than likely would pass on a contract of that size.
Possible destinations for Sabathia would be for him to remain in the National League. He was almost traded to the Dodgers in June, yet the Dodgers owner nixed the deal before it could get finalized. There is a logical spot for the big left-hander. He would still be able to swing the bat, and that would continue to make him happy.
Meanwhile, in the American League, the obvious contenders would be very much interested. The Red Sox like always, would love to have a 1-2-3 combination of Beckett, Sabathia, and Matsuzaka. And the Yankees would love to have a 1-2-3 combination of Sabathia, Wang, and Chamberlain/Hughes. The Angels could also be a possible destination for Sabathia if Jon Garland does indeed depart as a free-agent as expected.
Now let's take a look at the Brewers current right-handed ace, Ben Sheets. His past speaks for itself, just like Sabathia. The only difference between the two is a big one. One that might cost Sheets around the range of $30 - $40 million dollars. And it has nothing to do with the way he has pitched. It has to due with his injury history.
It seems everytime Sheets in the past has broken a nail, he feels that he has to miss 2-3 weeks of the season rehabbing the injury. I personally find it odd that in his contract-year, that for the first time in his big league career, he has been generally injury free. This to me, if I were Doug Melvin, would make me pursue Sabathia in the off-season much more than long-time ace Ben Sheets.
The current outlook for Ben Sheets is not quite as good as since Sabathia has come over from the tribe, his ERA has skyrocketed and he seems to be leaving everything up in the zone to opposing hitters. He is starting to also walk more batters than ever before, something that he hasn't done in his career.
Looking ahead for Sheets, I think the Brewers have to pass, and not even attempt to make an effort, and for multiple reasons. One being his injury history, and never being able to stay healthy for more than 2 months at a time.
Another reason why the Brewers should pass on Sheets is the fact that he has already come out and said that he would be a fool not to go out and test the waters of free agency. Sounds like someone is looking for the big bucks already, doesn't it?
The third reason why they should pass would be that they already have a great-young right hander that can step into the rotation and dominate in Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo had a great rookie season last year, but hurt his knee late in the second month of the season in 2008.
In making the effort to retain Sabathia, what the Brewers should clearly do, if Attanasio decides to spend the money. The Brewers could have a 1-2-3 punch of 28 year old lefty CC Sabathia, 22 year old right hander Yovani Gallardo, and 25 year old lefty Manny Parra. It would still be good enough to compete if not be as good as the Cubs 1-2-3 punch of Zambrano, Harden, and Dempster.
So throughout this article, I have posted the facts of the Milwaukee situation developing, and if for some crazy reason Doug Melvin winds up reading this, make the right call Doug.