Brewers let go of four prospects to acquire Sabathia

MILWAUKEE -- With one XXL-sized move, the Milwaukee Brewers hope to transform themselves from scrappy underdogs to a big, bad pitching powerhouse intent on chasing down the Chicago Cubs and making the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

The Brewers obtained AL Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia in a trade with the Cleveland Indians on Monday, giving up four prospects in a gamble that favors the present over the future.

"I'd say we're going for it," Brewers general manager Doug Melvin said. "That's the way I look at it."

The Brewers placed right-hander Jeff Suppan on the 15-day disabled list because of joint irritation in his pitching elbow Monday, temporarily making room on the roster for Sabathia.

The deal stacks Milwaukee's deck with a pair of aces, Sabathia and Ben Sheets -- but only for a few months.

Barring blockbuster contract offers from a small-market team that already is stretching this year's payroll into the $90 million range, both players will become free agents after the season.

But Sabathia said that's a concern for the offseason. Right now, he's just trying to blend in and get back to having fun on the mound -- something he didn't do in the postseason last year.

"If anybody's ever seen me pitch, I'm out there laughing and having fun," said Sabathia, who went 19-7 with a 3.21 ERA last season but lost two games to Boston in the ALCS. "That's just me, and that's something that I didn't do last year. When we get to the playoffs, I'll definitely be doing that."

Still, the deal hardly assures the Brewers an easy road to the postseason. After losing 4-3 to Colorado on Monday, Milwaukee is four games behind the Chicago Cubs and a half game behind St. Louis in the NL Central.

"Let's face it: This is still a calculated risk," Brewers principal owner Mark Attanasio said. "The other teams in our division aren't going to sit back and look at this and say, 'Oh, now the Brewers have got CC Sabathia. Let's just roll over.'"

The football player-sized Sabathia -- slugger Prince Fielder offered to lend him a pair of uniform pants -- is the first reigning Cy Young winner to be traded since Roger Clemens was dealt to the New York Yankees in the offseason after winning the award with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1998.

For Cleveland, it's a sign of surrender hardly anyone would have imagined going into the season.

Indians general manager Mark Shapiro said the team's string of injuries and disappointing performances made it hard to imagine a significant rally in the second half.

"We all headed into this season with what we feel are well-founded expectations for a championship-contending season," Shapiro said. "Four core players on the DL -- tough for almost any franchise to overcome -- as well as disappointing performances from many components of our team, most noticeably in the bullpen, leave us at the juncture we're at. There wasn't much doubt or question in our mind that it was nearly impossible for us to become a contending club this year."

Sabathia arrived in Milwaukee before Monday night's game and is scheduled to pitch against the Rockies on Tuesday night. He also is expected to pitch against Cincinnati on Sunday, giving him a pair of starts for his new team at home leading into the All-Star break.

After a news conference to announce the trade, a member of the Brewers public relations staff advised media members that Sabathia prefers to have his initials written without periods.

"Oh, really?" Melvin asked.

But after Sabathia arrived in Milwaukee Monday afternoon, he said it wasn't a big deal.

"I guess I'd go no periods," Sabathia said.

Milwaukee sent Cleveland outfielder Matt LaPorta, pitchers Rob Bryson and Zach Jackson and a player to be named. Shapiro said the player to be named would be one of two specified in the deal.

Melvin said the Brewers' strong farm system gave him flexibility to deal away a good prospect.

"Matt LaPorta is going to be a good big league player, and I hope he is," Melvin said.

Attanasio said the acquisition of Sabathia will push the team's payroll around $90 million this season. Attanasio said the move might prevent the club from turning a profit this year, but it was made possible by increased fan support and sound financial decisions in recent years.

"We'd always love to go for it," Attanasio said. "But you can go for it in a stupid fashion, and Doug and his group have never done that."

Sabathia had a slow start but is 6-8 with a 3.83 ERA. Cleveland scored two runs or fewer in 11 of his 18 starts.

Milwaukee's starting pitching has been thin ever since Yovani Gallardo went on the disabled list on May 2 with a torn knee ligament that required surgery. His rehab was supposed to take four months, which gives him an outside chance of returning before the end of the season.

Sheets (10-2, 2.77 ERA) is off to the best start of his career, but the All-Star righty is in the final year of a $38.5 million, four-year contract. No matter what happens in the future, Sheets said he's glad the Brewers are going for it now.

"It's hard to tell people in years past, 'Three years from now, we're going to be good,'" Sheets said. "We want to win now."

Milwaukee, which hasn't been in the postseason since the days of Robin Yount and Paul Molitor, fell two games short of the division title last year.

The Indians, who fell one win shy of the World Series last year, are in need of power-hitting corner outfielders and LaPorta is expected to fill that void. He hit .288 with 20 homers and 66 RBIs in 84 games for Double-A Huntsville.

Sabathia rejected a $72 million, four-year extension from the Indians during spring training and announced he wouldn't negotiate until after the season.

Shapiro said seven teams were interested in Sabathia, and the trade came after three to five days of intense negotiations with Milwaukee.

"CC made it clear that once the season started he did not want to entertain any negotiations," Shapiro said. "Our exploration of a contract was thorough enough in spring training to understand the combination of our capabilities and CC's expectations didn't align."

Sabathia said he wasn't going to worry about his contract until the end of the season.

"It's hard enough to play this game as it is, let alone with any other distractions such as a contract going on," Sabathia said. "I'll focus on that when it comes. Right now, I'm worried about pitching tomorrow."

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.