Rumor Mill: Brewers are front-runners for Sabathia?

MVN’s Cleveland Indians’ writer, James Pete, in Tribe Report wrote about it first (well, okay, it was the first I had read about it).
Then I read JSOnline.com’s Tom Haudricourt’s blog on it.
Even the Heller & Murphy show on Madison’s ESPN1070 affiliate devoted the better half of an hour to it.
The “it” is that the Brewers will trade for Indians’ ace C.C. Sabathia for the stretch run…or are at least the front-runners to do so, according to Buster Olney of ESPN.
Pete had initially speculated that Prince Fielder could be part of the trade, as it is widely believed that Fielder will not sign a long-term deal with the Brewers, and Brewers’ GM Doug Melvin will trade him. While possible, I think that trading the team’s most popular player during a playoff chase will never happen.
The consensus from fans seems to be that the Crew would have to include either ’07 first-round pick Matt LaPorta and/or his teammate from AA Huntsville Mat Gamel as part of the deal. A couple of blogs, including the JSOnline.com post and also Sportsbubbler.com, have fans quoting Melvin as saying he won’t trade either for Sabathia. Of course, things change.
First, let me relay that I have a bias–I have Sabathia on my fantasy team, and would love to see him on the Brewers (where, hopefully, he could get some more run support).
Also, I was initially opposed to this move…clarification–I think Sabathia would help the Brewers, and seeing him with the Cubs would certainly hurt the Crew’s chances to make the playoffs.
But giving up a top prospect for a “rent-a-player” is like robbing from Peter to pay Paul. In other words, Melvin’s charge is to field a good ballclub for 2008 and beyond.
Gamel, a third-baseman, is the front-runner to take over at third in ’09 in case Bill Hall doesn’t find his groove by next year. LaPorta, now an outfielder, also played first base while at the University of Florida, and is believed by many to take over for Fielder in 2009 should Melvin realize that signing Fielder to a long-term deal would be impossible and subsequently trade him.
That said, we have no idea if Gamel and/or LaPorta will ever make the major leagues. Besides injuries, either could struggle, God forbid, at AAA Nashville next year. You may also recall that I posted here and elsewhere that I still had my doubts that LaPorta was the top prospect in the Brewers’ organization, as was projected by Baseball America. My doubts are based on the fact that LaPorta was deemed a surprise pick last June…plus the fact that he only has one year of pro ball under his belt.
That said, I’m just smart enough to realize that I don’t know a whole lot about LaPorta, other than his stats, which are impressive.
Where am I going with all this? First, my gut feeling is that Melvin is going to make the trade, and will wind up trading either LaPorta or Gamel, but not both. Also, I think both the Brewers and Indians will wait until after the All-Star game before getting serious. My guess is that Melvin will want to pull the trigger earlier rather than later–if done on July 31st, the Brewers would like only get 11 or 12 starts out of Sabathia; if done on July 16th, the day after the All-Star game, Melvin would likely get at least two more starts out of his new pitcher.
The Indians will likely be able to demand three players total. My best guess is that they will want another pitcher in return, probably a starter over a reliever. Carlos Villanueva is one possibility, albeit a remote one. Jeremy Jeffress, now in Single A at Brevard County and 2-3 years away, is another. Relievers Tim Dillard or Sounds’ reliever Luis Peña must also be considered by the Indians, especially if they are looking for bullpen help for ’09 or ’10. Tony Gwynn, Jr., is another remote possibility, as he is out of options for 2009, I believe.
The Crew would also have to move a starter to the bullpen–likely Dave Bush. They’d also have to make a roster move, and would likely demote Villanueva down to AAA Nashville–either of which could ruffle the chemistry in the clubhouse.
Of course, this will only happen if the Brewers remain in the hunt, and feel the need to add a player, as well as the Indians thinking that they are out of it…that may not happen until the end of July. Anyway, Brewers’ fans are going to be rooting against the Indians for the next month or so.

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