Seven starts in and CC Sabathia has proved to every Wisconsinite he is the horse that management traded Matt LaPorta for him to be. He has created such buzz that regardless of who the Brewers are playing on a given night, even the cellar-dwelling Washington Nationals, the box office is guaranteed a sell-out crowd. How dominant can this guy be? Seven starts, a 6-0 record, an average of 8 1/3 innings per start with a 1.58 ERA. Finally, the Brewers look to have the kind of pitcher that can carry them into October. And just to throw in another stat, after tonight’s most recent complete game, Sabathia has notched the most complete games, four, among all National League pitcher’s, all in just over a month’s work.
But the lingering question that will creep into Brewer fans’ minds as the season winds down is will CC-mania continue in Milwaukee for years to come? He will be the marquee free-agent come the off-season, and if the team fails to make the post-season, questions will be asked as to why Brewer’s management has been willing to deal future pieces for half-season rentals (Scott Linebrink last year). Are Owner Mark Attanasio and GM Doug Melvin just that desperate for a playoff berth? Or are they seriously considering making a run at Sabathia when he tests the market? For now, only time will tell, because CC has said he will not openly express his thoughts on free agency until that times comes. But if one thing is certain: the reigning AL Cy Young winner will not be cheap. And the Brewers will have to contend with the big-boys: the Yankees, the Red Sox, the Dodgers. Can they do it? Who knows. But a hidden indicator may be upcoming next weekend, when the team travels to L.A. to square off against the Dodgers.
Sabathia, who turned 28 in July, is from Vallejo, California, just under 400 miles northwest of Dodger Stadium. He will be wooed by multiple teams, but of all of them, L.A. may be the most attractive option for the very reason he would return home. Granted, Vallejo is vastly different than the second largest U.S. city, with a mere 120,000 residents to L.A’s four million. While Sabathia won’t be pitching in the three game set against the Dodgers, it may be a good thing. This will probably be the only shot the “CC-less” Brewers have at making a statement to the Big Man that, “we’re better than these guys, sign with us.” If the Brewers should take the series or perhaps even sweep, maybe, just maybe, the door opens for CC to consider a return to Brew Town.
Another plus is the team will be also be freeing up around $45 million next season, assuming Ben Sheets, Eric Gagne, Mike Cameron, Guillermo Mota, Ray Durham, Derrick Turnbow and Chris Capuano, among others, aren’t brought back. And there are some who will undoubtedly ask, why pay CC a boatload more when Big Ben could be had for less? Since 2001, Sabathia’s rookie season (excluding this year), he has logged close to 200 innings in every season, including 241-innings last year en route to his Cy Young with Cleveland. In that same time, while Sheets has also racked up impressive totals, he has not nearly shown the durability to complete a whole season, at least not enough to trust resigning him long-term. Bottom line: CC is a true, dependable ace. And the loss of Sheets would not be nearly as painful (no pun intended), especially since Milwaukee will have a healthy Yovani Gallardo back next year, along with Manny Parra, Jeff Suppan, Seth McClung and Dave Bush already fixtures in the rotation.
While it may be a long shot, as the contract would need to be somewhere near the $15-20 million a year range for him to even consider an offer, the way Sabathia has pitched thus far it would definitely be worth it. And who knows? If the team can perform well in L.A and down the stretch, the hefty-lefty might even consider a discount.