Chicago Cubs Trade Rumors: Sabathia Mania & the Cubs

Hey...have you heard? The Brewers traded for CC Sabathia. Yeah...this story has been ev.ry.where today. Now that the smoke has cleared a bit on this (Amazing how quickly that happens these days-this thing was just confirmed this morning. Blog speed, baby. Blog speed), let's see how this affects our Cubs.

I'm not as worried as most about this. As I explained in our earlier Sabathia post, from a longer term standpoint I'm a bit glad that the Brewers sold off a number of highly touted prospects to land Sabathia for 1/2 a season. (That is, of course, if the Cubs win the NL Central and don't get knocked out of the playoffs by the Brewers.) The Brewers are losing one of the top prospects in the game in Matt LaPorta (#23 Baseball America, #31 Baseball Prospectus) now and will be losing 2/5 of their starting rotation in Sabathia and Ben Sheets heading into next year. The deal they made is "only" going to get them about 14 starts from Sabathia and not much else. The Cubs, who are just getting healthy with Carlos Zambrano and, soon, Alfonso Soriano returning from injuries (among others) should be able to withstand the bump that Sabathia will provide only every 5th day. Sabathia, who will surely improve this club both in starting pitching as well as general club morale, isn't going to win all his starts, isn't going to be perfect, and, despite this blast, doesn't add anything to the Brewers offense or bullpen. From ESPN's Jayson Stark:
The Cubs are a deeper, more efficient and more consistent offensive team than Milwaukee, for one thing. They've scored nearly 70 more runs (475-406). They've outhit the Brewers by nearly 30 points (.283-.255) and have a much better on-base percentage (.359-.324). And the Cubs still have the better bullpen (3.65 ERA to Milwaukee's 4.07).
As good as Sabathia is, he doesn't change any of those factors as the two teams are set to battle for the division over the 2nd half of the season. Another point that I think is important to the Cubs' 2008 success. Before the Tampa Bay Rays swept through the Red Sox, the Cubs were starting to get a little too much love from the national media. The Rays and getting swept at the White Sox cooled that down a bit. Now, with the Sabathia deal, attention is further deflected from the club and placed on the shoulders of Sabathia and the Brewers. The Cubs, though they're in front, almost take on a bit of an underdog role here for a while where they're able to just go out and produce without consistent requests for Today Show interviews. Additionally, the added strength to the Brewers could push the Cubs into the next level as far as performance goes. Things were getting a bit too cushy when the club had the best record in baseball and were rolling. Having to fight for this division throughout the 2nd half and into the playoffs is, in my view, a very good thing.

What Sabathia does change in this equation, and what worries me the most, comes in the playoffs. A rotation of Sheets, Sabathia, and Manny Parra is pretty damn scary. I doubt anyone would want to face that. Being in the same division as the Cubs, we wouldn't meet the Brewers until a NLCS, but that currently seems like a very likely scenario (per BP's latest Postseason Odds Report, the Brewers are have a 44% chance of taking the wildcard while the Cubs are at 80% for winning the division). The Brewers, if anything, definitely made themselves better if they can get into the playoffs.

Sabathia clearly bolsters the Milwaukee rotation and certainly ups the Brewers's chance of competing for this division. But I'm just not freaking out about it. The Cubs have shown they are a very good team. They're deeper, more talented, and less reliant on the long ball than the Brewers. I still think the Cubs take this division. But it just got a bit more difficult.

Comments (2)

Ace

July 7, 2008 at 8:02 PM

How have I missed this blog among the pantheon of Cubs blogs? Very nicely done.

jumbo

July 7, 2008 at 9:22 PM

Thanks Ace. Glad to have you here.