MILWAUKEE With one XXL-size 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 deal stacks the Brewers' 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. Milwaukee began Monday a percentage point ahead of St. Louis for the second-best record in the NL, and both teams are chasing the Chicago Cubs, who are 3 1/2 games ahead 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 against Colorado 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.
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.