On July 7th, 2008, the Brewers completed one of the seminal trades in their history, acquiring CC Sabathia in exchange for Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, Matt LaPorta, and Michael Brantley. Given how magical the 2008 playoff run was, I doubt too many people would undo this trade, but that trade did dent one of the better farm systems in the league at the time. Let’s take a look at how these four players have fared in Cleveland.
Rob Bryson, RP, age 22
Bryson has put up some ridiculous strikeout numbers in the minor leagues. Between both levels of A ball and a stint at AA, Bryson struck out 13.5 batters per nine innings this year in an impressive return after only throwing three innings in 2009. He hasn’t quite looked as good in AA (3.85 FIP), but he’s only 22 and he still looks like he has big time strikeout stuff. However, his value is inherently limited by the fact that he’s a relief pitcher, so unless he turns into a big time closer, the Brewers aren’t exactly missing out on a whole lot of value here.
Zach Jackson, SP, age 27
Jackson is out of the majors, now back in the Toronto Blue Jays system where he has posted a very unimpressive 5.75 ERA and 5.44 ERA in AAA. I feel pretty safe declaring Jackson as done, even though it’s kind of sad to say that about a 27 year old. He just doesn’t have the stuff to strike enough batters out and his struggles with the home run ball are the killer.
Matt LaPorta, 1B/LF/DH, age 25
LaPorta has been simply unimpressive in the majors. Between 2009 and 2010, he’s put together a slash line of .232/.306/.384, and even if you assume his BABIP of .261 will improve (it probably will), he’s not much more than an average hitter. He just hasn’t showed the power that he needs to become an elite hitter, and although there’s still time for breakout, I wouldn’t bet on him becoming much more than an average MLB player. At this point, I’ll take Mat Gamel over him.
Michael Brantley, OF, age 23
Brantley has just been terrible in the majors. He has a .262/.313/.325 line in the majors so far and UZR doesn’t like his defense in the outfield. As such, he’s been worth -0.8 WAR in the majors to date. However, he has solid recent numbers in the minors and he has the tools to play center field well. I certainly wouldn’t give up on him yet, but, as with LaPorta, he certainly hasn’t done anything in the majors yet.
At least so far, the Brewers haven’t lost much due to the Sabathia trade. Throw in that LaPorta was blocked by Fielder, Hart, and Braun, and there was no reason not to do the trade at the time. It looks even better now that the only player in the deal who has been successful to date is Bryson, and he’s still a ways away from the MLB.