Tuesday, April 15, 2014
Remember when the Indians traded CC Sabathia?
For the most part, I think that's a fair way of looking at things, but we don't always take the time to re-evaulate deals of the past once that future finally arrives.
But with the Cleveland Indians in town to play the White Sox for a four-game series over the weekend, I got to thinking about the trade the Tribe made on July 7, 2008, in which they sent their ace pitcher, CC Sabathia, to the Milwaukee Brewers as part of a blockbuster deal.
Now that nearly six years have passed, I think it's fair to take a look back at this trade. For Sabathia, the Indians acquired outfielder Matt LaPorta, pitchers Zach Jackson and Rob Bryson and a player to be named later.
How did the Brewers come out in this deal? Well, Sabathia made 17 starts for them the rest of 2008 and went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA. He pitched like an ace down the stretch of that season and helped Milwaukee secure the wild card spot in the National League. Unfortunately for the Brewers, Sabathia got shelled in his lone postseason start, and Milwaukee lost in the first round of the playoffs to the eventual world champion Philadelphia Phillies.
That offseason, Sabathia left Milwaukee for much greener pastures, signing an 8-year mega-deal with the New York Yankees, for whom he still pitches today.
I doubt the Brewers regretted making the deal. It didn't net them a World Series, but it did help get them in the playoffs, and they probably knew Sabathia was going to walk at season's end at the time they made the trade.
Time has shown the players Milwaukee parted with on that July day didn't amount to much. Bryson was not much of a prospect and never pitched above Triple-A. Jackson appeared in 12 games over two seasons with the Indians, going 2-3 with a 6.11 ERA. He hasn't pitched in the majors since 2009. Left-handed pitchers tend to live forever, so the now-30-year-old Jackson is still kicking it around in the Washington Nationals organization, but he never helped the Tribe.
That brings us to LaPorta, who was considered "the big piece" of the deal. He was the 23rd-best prospect in baseball going into the 2008 season, as ranked by Baseball America. He was holding pretty steady at No. 27 on that list going into 2009, the spring after he had been dealt to the Indians.
Some experts were surprised the Brewers would part with LaPorta in exchange for a half-season of Sabathia, believing LaPorta was destined to be a prolific right-handed power bat. As it turns out, that didn't happen.
LaPorta made it to the majors with Cleveland, but he made little impact. He posted a .238/.301/.393 slash line with 31 home runs in 120 RBIs over 291 games from 2009 to 2012. He never hit more than 12 home runs in any season. The 29-year-old is now playing for Campeche of the Mexican League, where he is a teammate of former Cubs pitcher Sean Gallagher.
So, from all this we can safely conclude the Brewers fleeced the Indians back in 2008, right? Not so fast.
Remember, the trade included a player to be named later. That October, the Brewers completed the deal by sending outfielder Michael Brantley to the Indians. The 27-year-old is now in his fourth full year as a fixture in the Cleveland outfield. While Brantley is not an All-Star, he's a legitimate everyday player, having posted a .284/.332/.396 slash line in 2013, to go along with a career-high 10 home runs and 73 RBIs.
When a team acquires four prospects in exchange for an established veteran, it's a successful trade if even one of those prospects turns into something decent. After all, most prospects are complete busts. In this particular trade, the highly regarded prospect was a bust, while the player to be named later has become a major league starting outfielder.
Funny how it works out sometimes.