The Brewers are trying to make their first playoff appearance since 1982, but there are already questions concerning the offseason.
The biggest one, of course, is: Does owner Mark Attanasio give the big money to Ben Sheets or CC Sabathia, in order to be the Brewers' ace in 2009 and beyond?
Milwaukee can't keep both, due to both of them wanting a huge contract, but the Brewers must keep one of them. Which one though?
They must keep one; because I'm not sure fans are set on seeing Yovanni Gallardo as their ace next year. Gallardo is good, but he has yet to prove that he can pitch for a full MLB season.
Let's compare "Big Ben" with the "Big Man" and their 2008 overall stats.
12-7, 2.97 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 144 K
The 30-year old also has seven no decisions on the year, with four complete games and two shutouts. He is making roughly $12 million in 2008 and set to make more next year. The oft-injured ace is going to test the waters of free agency in the offseason, so he will have many offers to ponder.
15-8, 2.82 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 208 K
The 28-year old is 9-0 with a 1.43 ERA with Milwaukee. He has two no decisions, with six complete games and three shutouts. He also handles the bat really well for a pitcher. He is making $11 million in 2008, but he's expected to hit the jackpot in the offseason with a multi-year deal that could possibly exceed $100 million.
Even though Sheets has been with the Brewers since 2001, and Sabathia for three months, I'd give the money to Sabathia.
How do their career numbers stack up against each other you ask?
Sheets has made 217 starts amassing an 85-81 record with 17 complete games and three shutouts. Don't forget his career 3.72 ERA with 1,192 strikeouts and 307 walks—and a 3.9 K:BB ratio. But again, for the last few years, he always finds himself on the DL with strange injuries (a blister? Come on, be a man).
CC Sabathia is 115-71 over his 248 career starts, with 25 complete games and 10 shutouts. He has a career 3.70 ERA with 1,350 strikeouts and 516 walks—plus a 2.6 K:BB ratio. I can't stress enough how much he looks like a hitter, rather than a pitcher, at the plate.
It is possible that Milwaukee can keep either CC or Sheets and not lose them both to free agency, which would actually push them back a couple of steps to start '09, because none of the other free agent pitchers catch my eye.
When Attanasio entered the picture prior to 2005 season, the Brewers' payroll was $27.5 million in '04, and was actually decreased 25 percent from '03. It was near the bottom of the league.
In Attanasio's four years at the helm, he has managed to triple the payroll, as he is dishing out around $80 million in 2008, which is in the middle of the pack. Every year since '05, the payroll has been on a steady rise, and I expect nothing to change going into 2009.
The Brewers will have other free agents besides Sheets and Sabathia, with four of them having a club option for '09. The players with that option are Craig Counsell, Jason Kendall, Mike Cameron, and Salomon Torres. I don't see any of these guys switching teams in the offseason.
Milwaukee might have $10 million extra, as they won't make the same mistake regarding Eric Gagne.
So, Sheets or Sabathia? Sheets has been with the Brewers his whole career, injured for a good portion, and wants to test the market.
Sabathia has said in the past that he wants to play for a team that is going to win. The Yankees have the money to pay him, but they may actually be on the decline in this league.
Attanasio and Co. are proving that they can do the right things in order to get back to winning ways. And in the next couple of months, that group of big wigs will have possibly one of the toughest decisions in franchise history, which could make the Brewers NL-contenders for years to come.