MILWAUKEE -- Let the race for the ace begin.
But don't think a truck full of money will be the top factor in where CC Sabathia decides to sign.
After the Brewers were bumped out of the NL playoffs Sunday with a 6-2 loss to Philadelphia, the free-agent-to-be said that happiness, not money, will play a major role. The big left-hander sure had fun in Milwaukee, too.
"I'd be lying if I didn't say this was one of the better times I had in my career," said Sabathia, who went 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA in 17 starts with the Brewers. "Coming here, meeting these guys and being on this team, was a good experience."
Sabathia said he hasn't made any decisions on his future. But he certainly added lots of zeros to his potential pay day after Cleveland traded him to Milwaukee for four prospects on July 7.
The reigning AL Cy Young winner pitched seven complete games in the NL and made four consecutive starts on three days' rest, including a complete game in a 3-1 victory over the Cubs that gave Milwaukee the NL wild card.
"I enjoyed my time. These guys are great. This clubhouse is awesome," Sabathia said.
He was awesome, too, in carrying Milwaukee to its first postseason trip since 1982.
Sabathia would have been the Game 5 starter, if necessary, but had to settle for a pinch hit at-bat in the third inning and an offseason to rest after 256 2/3 innings, including playoffs.
"I feel fine. I feel good, actually," Sabathia said. "I thought I'd be a lot more sore than I am, actually. I feel real good and had no problems doing what needed to be done."
General manager Doug Melvin just laughs at the question now if giving some of the Brewers' best prospects was worth it for Sabathia. Principal owner Mark Attanasio thinks that they might have a chance at re-signing him even though he'll likely get at least as much as Johan Santana did this past offseason with his $137.5 million, six-year deal with the Mets.
"The numbers you hear for a player like CC start to approach what we pay the team, so you have to be creative on how you structure things. But, they've got financial advisers and they can be creative, too, so we'll see," Attanasio said.
Sabathia, who was 18 when he was drafted in the first round by Cleveland in 1998, said he's looking for a comfortable place that's best for him and his family.
"Even when I was in Cleveland, I told people I want to have fun. I like to play this game and I want to be around people I enjoy, because you have to be around them eight months a year," Sabathia said. "It'll all factor in."
It's also well-known that he's fond of Southern California, and he'd like to make decision soon.
"I want to get it done pretty quick. I try to be as less free as possible," Sabathia said. "All that is is stress, having it drag on through the winter. We'll see what happens."
One thing is for certain, though. His plans will revolve solely around his family.
"I can guarantee you I won't be flying around going to different cities," Sabathia said. "I've pretty much been to every city. I've got a lot of friends around the league. They're going to have to come to me."