Harris: Sabathia and Matt LaPorta both gain value
Wake up your little Cheesehead and hide your Twinkies: There's a 6-foot-7, 290-pound (and that's charitable) monster headed to Milwaukee.
The Brewers have agreed in principle on a trade for C.C. Sabathia, and the hefty lefty could get his first start as a Milwaukee "rental" Tuesday against the red-hot Rockies offense. Clearly Sabathia, who has a 3.83 ERA, a 1.23 WHIP and a 123-34 K/BB ratio in '08, is owned in all fantasy leagues, and should continue to be (assuming you're not in an AL-only league in which you lose rights to a player if he goes to the NL). If anything, Sabathia's fantasy value might go up just a bit. Both the Indians and Brewers have shaky bullpens, but at this point, Milwaukee is scoring more runs, hitting for a higher team average, hitting more dingers and slugging higher as a team than Cleveland is. That should mean better run support, especially in the heat of a pennant race. And make no mistake: Sabathia is a rental. He's a free agent at the end of the 2008 season, and all signs point to him testing the free-agent waters that Johan Santana avoided.
On Cleveland's side, the main prize is Matt LaPorta, a first-rounder from '07 who can rake but was blocked in Milwaukee by Ryan Braun in left field and Corey Hart in right. At Double-A Huntsville, LaPorta was hitting .288 with a .402 OBP and a .978 OPS, including 20 homers and 66 RBIs in 302 at-bats. The question now: Will the Indians keep the 23-year-old LaPorta in the minors, likely at Triple-A Buffalo, or will they cross their fingers and hope to get a spark from him right away, replacing the mess (Shin-Soo Choo and Franklin Gutierrez) they currently have in right field?
My advice would be to pick up LaPorta as a fantasy free agent now on the off chance he gets added to the big league squad, though I'd prefer not to blow the top waiver spot in a league until I know for sure he's Cleveland- (and not Buffalo-) bound. (In ESPN games, he'll be added as soon as he makes the official roster.) The kid might strike out a bit, but he'll also walk a fair amount, and he should be able to hit well enough to stick. He could eventually have a Lance Berkman-type bat, though he probably won't run as much as Berkman does.
Finally, Jeremy Sowers looks to be safe in the Cleveland rotation for the moment, though he's not exactly setting the world afire (eight runs in three innings his last time out). Someone like Matt Ginter could be a fill-in as the team's fifth starter until Fausto Carmona is ready to come off the DL; that situation should become clearer over the next day or two.
Christopher Harris is a fantasy baseball, football and racing analyst for ESPN.com. He is a six-time Fantasy Sports Writing Association award winner across all three of those sports. You can e-mail him here.
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