Brewers take shot at playoffs with Sabathia deal

The Milwaukee Brewers, mired in last place six weeks ago, are now banking on the reigning American League Cy Young winner to lead them to their first playoff appearance in more than a quarter century.

The Cleveland Indians agreed to trade ace C.C. Sabathia on Sunday afternoon to the Brewers for four minor leaguers, including top prospect Matt LaPorta and third baseman Taylor Green, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which first reported the deal, said the other two players are left-handed pitcher Zach Jackson and right-hander Rob Bryson.

The trade is contingent on clean medical reports for the players involved.

The Brewers pushed for the trade to happen this week so they could get two starts from Sabathia before the All-Star break, sources said. He is scheduled to debut in Milwaukee on Tuesday against Colorado.

On May 19, the Brewers were 20-24, their season crumbling under lofty expectations. They had lost starter Yovani Gallardo to a knee injury, and executives around baseball called general manager Doug Melvin to inquire about trading for ace Ben Sheets. Since then, the Brewers have gone 29-15 and climbed into a tie for the wild-card lead and are 3 ½ games behind National League Central-leading Chicago.

Sabathia, too, has undergone a renaissance since a poor start. The 27-year-old, who is eligible for free agency after this season and turned down a four-year, $72 million deal from Cleveland, has a 2.16 earned-run average over 104 1/3 innings since April 22. On the season, he is 6-8 with a 3.83 ERA.

LaPorta, drafted out of Florida seventh overall last year, was converted from first base to left field and is considered an average-at-best defender. Still, the Indians coveted his bat, and he has hit 20 home runs at Double-A this season.

Cleveland also asked for third baseman Mat Gamel or shortstop Alcides Escobar, but the Brewers did not budge. Had Cleveland not agreed on a deal, Milwaukee was prepared to pursue other available pitchers, such as A.J. Burnett, a source said.

Jeff Passan is a national writer for Yahoo! Sports. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Jeff a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Jul 6, 2008