Since Steven replied ever so quickly to IPL’s mailbag request, I have decided to dedicate a post to your question. On to Steven’s question:


I’m ready to throw in the towel on Laporta, and Brantley is only so so…are you ready to officially declare the C.C. trade a disaster? I think I am.

-Steven S.


The date was July 8th, 2008. I can remember rushing home in an attempt to check to see if it was true. And after just a couple of clicks on google, there it was: The Indians had accepted a deal to trade talented ace C.C. Sabathia to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for prospects.

At first, I was angry at Cleveland management. After all, C.C. was a homegrown player who was “one of our guys” from the beginning. I think the fan base as a unit knew that C.C. would likely depart for free agency at the end of the ’08 season, it was just that we all wanted it to end the right way in 2008. Unfortunately, the team struggled out of the gate, causing the Indians to be forced into trade discussions the Brewers. When the dust cleared from the trade, this is where we stood:

Cleveland Receives:

P Zach Jackson

P Rob Bryson

1B/OF Matt Laporta

A player to be named later: Michael Brantley

Milwaukee Receives:

A couple months of C.C. Sabathia

OF Kentrail Davis- He was the supplemental first round pick the Brewers received as a result of C.C. signing with New York

My question is, who REALLY won this trade? Did either team win? Perhaps they both lost, but it seems as if the Indians are still reliving this awful deal every season. It is easy to see that the centerpiece of the trade was none other than Matt Laporta. Widely recognized as one of the games top power prospects at the time, the Indians seemed pleased to have acquired their first baseman of the future in July of 2008. In defense of Cleveland, Laporta was regarded as a masher who put up excellent numbers in the minors. Consider his stats while in the minors for Milwaukee (courtesy of

2007- 23 Games- 10HR, 27 RBI’s .318 BA

2008- 84 games- 20HR 66 RBI’s .288 BA

And even check out his numbers in the Indians system in case you may have forgot:

2009- 93 Games 17 HR 60 RBI .299 BA

Then, came the big call-up. To be honest, I am attempting to avoid making this a statistical piece (although I find it extremely difficult to not rant about the numbers) but I must mention the two key eye-popping Laporta facts.

  • For his career (2009-2011), Laporta has an average wins above replacement (WAR) of 0.2. Understand that a value of zero means that the player is equal to that of a replacement type player from AAA. Basically, what I am alluding to here is that Laporta has been of no more value to the Indians as any other AAA outfielder.
  • Matt Laporta has had 444 at-bats at Progressive Field for his career. In games at Progressive Field, he has hit .218, with 38 BB compared to 111 SO’s. Considering that players should be most comfortable playing at home, Laporta has traditionally put up terrible numbers playing in front of the home crowd. His road splits are what has carried his sub-par stats thus far.
And, since Steven also alluded to Michael Brantley, here is the world’s fastest summary of Brantley’s value: Brantley has been slightly more successful in an Indians uniform, managing a 2.2 WAR in 2011 (2.0 or higher is considered a “starter” type player); however, Brantley has not provided the lead-off hitter pop the Indians have asked from him thus far, as evidenced by Ryan McCrystal’s great article found here.
The other two players the Indians received in the deal also provided mixed results. As you may recall, Jackson had a brief stint with the Indians during the 2009 season, but his high ERA and WHIP caused the Indians to cut him loose. Bryson, now 24, has put up solid numbers in the lower portion of the Indians farm system. His ability to strike out batters and close out games make him an interesting bullpen prospect in the next year or so, assuming the Indians allow him to advance to AAA Columbus.


As for C.C., it is safe to say that he has worked out pretty well in New York. In his three seasons with the Yankees, C.C. has posted WAR’s of 4.3, 5.0, and 6.9. For anyone keeping score at home, here is the WAR comparison:

Cleveland: Laporta and Brantley averages for 3 seasons: 0.2 + 1.3= 1.5 WAR

C.C. Sabathia’s average for 3 seasons since being dealt: 5.4 WAR (It is important to understand that a WAR of 5.0 or above is considered All-Star caliber.)

To summarize the trade, the Indians dealt away an All-Star candidate and Cy-Young winner for two players who’s performance to date has not added up to even one starting position player.  I vote that the deal was a disaster, but not without pointing out that the Tribe whiffed even more the following season with the horrible Cliff Lee deal; however, that is the topic of a future post. With that point, I declare the C.C. Sabathia trade of 2008 to be a disaster Steven. Thanks for the question!

Feel free to follow all things brenden on Twitter: @BrendenLowery




  • Steve says:

    I’d have to disagree about the Lee trade. Marson is darn near a gold glove catcher, and if he makes some offensive strides he’s a starter on 2/3 of the teams in MLB in my opinion. He calls a great game and he’s a great clubhouse guy too. I also think the book is far from closed on Carrasco. He should recover well from tommy John surgery and be back in the mix next year. His head hunting incident last year showed he’s got some maturing to do but he showed flashes of brilliance and was dominant at times last year. I think is best days are ahead of him, I’m fairly high on that guy. And Donald may not be done progressing either. He’s looking like a good “scrappy utility guy” type and with the insane amount of easily avoided muscle strains on this team (a whole separate rant) that’s a needed piece. I think the dust hasn’t settled at all on the Lee trade, but CC, I think we know what we got. What an awful trade that was. Brantley is average at very best, and Laporta is looking like a career triple A guy.

  • Ryan McCrystal says:

    to be fair to Shapiro, it wouldve been tough to get much more for Sabathia. Knowing there was 0% chance of him re-signing in Cleveland, teams knew we had to trade him. Additionally, teams also knew someone like the Yankees was going to throw boatloads of cash his direction, making it impossible for a team like the Brewers to sign him. So for a guy that everyone knew was just a rental, I think they did just fine.

    Neither guy has worked out the way anyone expected, but when trading for prospects I think the initial reaction of insiders (which was nothing but positive) means almost as much as the actual result. After all, we know Shaprio & Co. can evaluate talent from numerous trades they’ve pulled off in recent years landing guys like Cabrera, Choo, etc for absolutely nothing. This one just didn’t work out, for whatever reason.

  • Ryan McCrystal says:

    And as Brenden mentioned, lets not close the door on the Sabathia deal until Bryson reaches the majors. Last year at 3 levels, he posted a 2.29 ERA with 48 K and just 16 BB in just under 40 IP. He’s definitely got back-end of the bullpen potential

  • medfest says:

    The Sabathia deal looks to be a dud,but hindsight is always 20/20.

    LaPorta was a blue chipper all the way,although his lack of athleticism should have been a warning flag.His severe beaning at the Olympics may have retarded his progress at the very least,it seems to me that he never has swung with abandon since then.Sort of feeling for the ball instead of ripping it.

    Brantley is beginning to look like nothing more than a fourth outfielder at the major league level,although I’m hoping for the best since the Tribe has zilch for outfielders in their farm system.

    Bryson may still contribute.

    In sum,Shapiro had to make this deal,every other GM in baseball would have made the deal in his place at that time.

  • Will McIlroy says:

    Maybe it was bad karma with the Brewers. Reportedly we could have taken Mat Gamel, Milwaukee’s best 3B prospect, instead of Brantley. Gamel has a .222/5/23 line in parts of 4 ML seasons.

  • Ryan McCrystal says:

    The choice was actually between Brantley and 3B/2B Taylor Green

    BA has him listed as the Brewers 8th best prospect and he’s coming off a monster year at Triple-A, but he’s blocked by Ramirez and Weeks so we won’t really know if we made the right choice for awhile longer.

  • Brenden Lowery says:

    Phew, have I missed some serious discussion! Sorry, I had not known my post had sparked this; I kind of like it.

    Anyway, Ryan is correct, the choice was between Green and Brantley. Of course, the Indians ended up receiving Brantley, and here we are today. I also agree with Ryan on the fact that the entire league knew that the Indians would be trading Sabathia; however, not many teams seemed to be ALL that interested, which is odd considering the usual amount of interest at the deadline. The Brewers seemed to be the only serious candidate to land Sabathia, so the Indians were sort of forced into being restricted on what they could get in a trade.

    As for Stevens comments, I am not saying that the Lee trade was a disaster, but it is my opinion that the Indians whiffed on that deal even more. Looking back at the trade, they did not receive a premier prospect (Carrasco was not nearly as hyped as Laporta was) in return for a Cy-Young winner. I am also by no means closing the door on that deal yet at all; however, keep in mind that from the C.C. trade, the Indians received a starting (borderline) outfielder in Brantley who is actively contributing to the team now. I understand Carrasco would be contributing if it were not for the injury, but last season, he was below average despite people thinking he was really a key to the Indians success (0.6 WAR in 2010 and 2011). Marson is purely a defensive catcher who is not of starting caliber for a full season because of his futile offense. Donald is sort of serving that super-utility role for the Indians, and I agree, he was a great addition. The word is also still out about the Knapp kid, but his injuries have seemed to slow his movement through the farm system.

    All in all, Shapiro and the front office did do well on trades in recent years. I just find it interesting how the Indians managed to whiff twice when trading Cy-Young winners (by whiff, I mean miss out on a SOLID starting player), yet pull off trades to get Shin Soo Choo and Carlos Santana for practically nothing. It is funny how baseball works sometimes.

  • Joey says:

    So, it was alluded to at the beginning of the post, but almost anything we got made us the winners, in a way, because we only gave up CC for a couple months. In a year when we weren’t competing. It’s not really fair to say we gave up the next few years of awesomeness from him. We missed out on a couple months of him.

  • Ray says:

    Completely agree that you can’t look at CC;s time in NY to analyze the trade. But can you say it was a total win because we only gave up a few months of CC? In ’08, the Indians were 12.5 out at the trading deadline and were 13 games under 50. After a loss on 8/1, the Indians finished 34-20 down the stretch to narrow the gap to 7 games from the division winning White Sox. Meanwhile, Sabathia was downright historic for Milwaukee after the trade, going 11/2, 7 CG’s with a 255 ERA+. Um, 255. Nice.

    Who took CC’s starts after the trade? Could it have made a difference in the pennant race? And hey, say they hung onto him and took the supplemental pick. Kentrail Davis was a whiff, but only a few picks ahead of Tanner Scheppers. Fun to imagine…

  • Brenden Lowery says:

    The reason why I brought up C.C.’s success in the post was because, he is a Cy-Young caliber pitcher. Even in situations when a pitcher is going to leave via free agency at the end of a season, teams typically trade their “ace” or “star-hitter” for the best set of prospects they can get in return. At the time, Laporta and Brantley were the best prospects available that anyone was willing to deal.

    I just showed the WAR’s because Wins above replacement indicate how well a player plays IN PLACE OF a replacement player. Even though the Indians were going to lose Sabathia anyway, they gained virtually nothing from the deal, considering that Laporta and Brantley’s numbers could be duplicated by another AAA player in Columbus.In the tribe’s defense, they did not know that Brantley and Laporta would not develop as they wanted them to. Perhaps keeping Sabathia, and taking the compensation draft pick would have turned out better, who knows. That is what makes baseball so interesting.

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