Remember when the Brewers’ biggest problem was they had too much starting pitching? CC Sabathia, Ben Sheets, Yovani Gallardo, Jeff Suppan, Dave Bush, Seth McClung and Manny Parra — so many arms and only five rotation spots!
Milwaukee won’t have that problem this year.
The Brewers have shown little interest in brining back the oft-injured Sheets, who is a free agent. And Sabathia is being pursued by the deep-pocketed Yankees. And the Angels. And maybe the Red Sox and Giants.
Milwaukee could simply go with a rotation of Gallardo, Suppan, Bush, McClung and Parra, and that wouldn’t be the end of the world. But would it be enough to get the Brewers back to the playoffs? Doubtful. Milwaukee just barely made the postseason in 2008, and that was with Sabathia doing his best Sandy Koufax impression. Without Sabathia it stands to reason that the Brewers will take a step back. And they can’t afford to take a step back. Not when they play in a division with the Cubs.
Obviously, the Brewers need a starting pitcher to offset the likely losses of Sabathia and Sheets. Who’s a good fit? Randy Wolf? Oliver Perez?
No, you don’t replace Sabathia. You can’t replace Sabathia.
And therein lies the dilemma. Should the Brewers re-sign Sabathia, they’d be committing roughly a quarter of the team’s payroll to just one player. If Sabathia got hurt, that’d be it for Milwaukee. They’d sink or swim with the big-boned ace.
That’s a gamble. But a wise man once said, “[T]he house always wins. Play long enough, you never change the stakes. The house takes you. Unless, when that perfect hand comes along, you bet and you bet big, then you take the house.”
Does Sabathia represent a perfect hand? I don’t know. Nobody does. Nobody knows if a guy of his girth can continue to pitch at an elite level. But if I were the Brewers I’d pay to find out. Because, as another wise man once said, “You can’t lose what you don’t put in the middle. But you can’t win much either.”*
*See what I did there? I mixed my gambling movie quotes. I started with a quote from “Ocean’s 11″ and ended with a quote from “Rounders.” Mixing movie quotes is a highwire act. A lesser blogger might have bungled it. But you’re in good hands here.
Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the Brewers could use a new back-end reliever. For much of 2008 Eric Gagne closed games for Milwaukee. After that project failed, the Brewers turned to Soloman Torres. Now Gagne is gone and Torres is retired. Maybe Brian Fuentes would be a good fit? Or Brandon Lyon? Or Milwaukee could trade Mike Cameron for a power bullpen arm, and move Rickie Weeks to center field.
Finally, I feel obliged to mention that Corey Hart was terrible in 2008 and if he can’t improve on last season’s .300 OBP then the Brewers are totally screwed. Rickie Weeks, meanwhile, had his usual decent OBP and crappy batting average. If the Brewers can find a way to combine Weeks and Hart into one super player (Rickie Hart? Corey Weeks?), then they’ll be in business.