What Will Sabathia Bring In Return?

With each and every loss in this current seven-game streak, ace left-hander C.C. Sabathia moved closer to leaving the Indians. Unless owners Paul and Larry Dolan come up with a remarkable contract offer, general manager Mark Shapiro is pretty much going to be forced to trade the club's most precious commodity in order to get something back before he leaves as a free agent at the end of the season.

Rumors have been swirling about which club will make the Indians the best trade offer. Right now, the two teams who appear to be the front-runners are the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

Both clubs are trying to make the playoffs, but facing strong competition. The addition of a power pitcher like Sabathia could make the difference for either ballclub.

Both have well-stocked farm systems, especially with the type of players the Indians are seekng to add.

Both are in the National League, where Sabathia would get a chance to bat -- which is something the big fella loves almost as much as firing a 98-mph fastball past a hitter with the bases loaded.

The Brewers, in particular, are loaded with young talent. They have developed two recent NL Rookies of the Year in sluggers Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun and have more hitters on the farm -- specifically outfielders Matt LaPorta, Lorenzo Cain, Cole Gillespie and Darren Ford along with third basemen Mat Gamel and Taylor Green. They also have a slick-fielding shortstop, Alcides Escobar, who has shown signs of becoming a decent hitter.

One or two of those players could be used in a package to obtain Sabathia.

The Brewers could use more than Sabathia and the Indians have a few other players that may be of interest as Milwaukee seeks to get back into the playoffs for the first time since 1982.

Veteran Bill Hall is hitting only .220, though he does have 11 home runs. The Brewers expected much more when they signed him to a four-year, $24 million contract through 2010 with an option for 2011. That was after the former utility player hit .292 with 17 homers in 2005 and followed up by hitting .270 with 35 homers and 101 runs the next season.

Hall is 28 years old and perhaps the Brewers would be interested in getting 34-year-old Casey Blake to play third for them in a stretch-run drive. After five decent seasons in Cleveland, Blake is currently hitting .280 with eight homers and 47 RBI. He's making $6 million this year and also will be a free agent this fall. The Indians could include him in a deal and get back the younger Hall, who will give them the same versatility of Blake, being able to play third, short, second and the outfield while providing decent pop in the lower end of the batting order.

Hall-for-Blake would be a nice side order for both teams in what could be a blockbuster. Let's say the Indians deal both Blake and Sabathia. They get back Hall ... and which two of these prospects:

LaPorta ... Like the Indians' Ryan Garko, the 6-2, 212-pound right-hand hitter is a converted catcher with impressive offensive credentials. The Brewers raised a few eyebrows last year when they made him the No. 7 overall pick in the first round. Many questioned why an NL team would take a player with DH skills. LaPorta can mash -- both with his bat and his glove.

The Brewers believe that LaPorta can develop into a serviceable left fielder, a guy who catches what he gets to and won't be awful in the field -- while delivering big offensive numbers. Jack Zduriencik, the club's scouting director who was named Executive of the Year at baseball's winter meetings, said when he picked LaPorta: "When all is said and done, we think this guy can play left field. He's going to be an average left fielder someday and he's going to bring offense and power."

In his first pro season a year ago, LaPorta hit 12 homers with 32 RBI and a .304 average in Class A ball. This year, in 82 games at Double-A Huntsville, he's hitting .291 with 20 homers and 66 RBI.

Escobar: ... He's similar to Asdrubal Cabrera, the middle infielder who made such a big impact in the Indians' stretch drive a year ago. This year, Cabrera hit only .184 in the first two months and was banished to Buffalo, where he's picked up his offense.

Escobar, 21, is in his fifth minor-league season and has a .290 career average. The right-hand hitter is batting .331 with seven homers and 52 RBI in 84 games at Huntsville. He had only seven homers in his first 406 games as a pro. He also has 22 stolen bases in 28 attempts this year, making him 122-for-171 in his career.

Scouts love Escobar's soft hands and fluid moves in the field. What they don't like is his walks-to-strikeouts ratio. He's fanned 316 times and drawn 95 walks in his career. That's OK for a slugger, but not for a guy who needs to get on base and utilize his speed.

Green ... Only a 25th-round pick in 2005, he had a breakout season a year ago in the Class A South Atlantic League (where the Indians' Lake County Captains farm team plays). After hitting only .231 in rookie ball in '05, Green batted .327 with 14 homers and 86 RBI in 111 games.

He's kept right on hitting this year at High Class A Brevard County, going 86-for-290 (.297) with 10 homers and 50 RBI in 78 games. He has a much better walks ratio than Escobar, 120 walks to 139 strikeouts in his career.

He's a left-hand hitter with average range and arm at third base. The 21-year-old is serviceable defender with an offensive upside.

Gamel ... He's basically the same player as Green, only a year older at age 22 and with a lot more strikeouts. He also hits left-handed and likely will provide a bit more power.

At Double-A Huntsville this season, he's hitting an incredible .381 with 15 homers and 75 RBI in 84 games. In 399 games over four seasons, the fourth-round pick in 2005 has a .311 average with 47 homers and 261 RBI. He's got 165 walks, but fanned 299 times.

Cain ... A 17th-round pick in 2004, he's got speed, defense and is working to become a more polished hitter.

The right-hander has a .296 career average with 20 homers, 185 RBI and 89 steals in 397 games as a pro. He burst upon the scene in rookie ball, hitting .341 with five homers and 38 RBI in 56 games at age 19. A year later, he hit .307 with six homers, 60 RBI and 34 steals at Class A.

Last season at High Class A, Cain batted .276 with two homers and 44 RBI, 24 steals, but 97 strikeouts in 126 games. He's improved this year at the same level in 77 games, batting .281 with seven homers, 41 RBI and 19 steals in 23 attempts.

Gillespie ... The 24-year-old, a third-round pick in 2006 out of Oregon State, has been steady if not spectacular in the minors. In 262 career games, he has hit .284 with 31 homers, 147 RBI and 43 stolen bases in 55 attempts.

At Huntsville this season, he's batting .273 with 11 homers and 54 RBI in 82 games, going 9-for-9 in steal attempts.

Ford ... He's the biggest risk/reward player in the group, a guy with tremendous speed who strikes out too much, but shows enough potential to be very enticing.

An 18th-round pick in 2004, the right-hander has 194 stolen bases in 238 tries over 386 games. He also has 399 strikeouts.

Overall, Ford has hit .271 with 19 homers and 163 RBI.

A year ago at Class A West Virginia, he was fabulous. He hit .335 with five homers 33 RBI and 31 steals in 51 games. Promoted to High Class A, he really turned on the jets, getting 36 stolen bases in 72 games -- though he hit only .231 with four homers and 27 RBI.

Back at Brevard County this season, he's hitting .237 with two homers, 25 RBI and 40 steals in 49 tries.

The Brewers have plenty of other prospects, too. Included are pitchers Jeremy Jeffress, Zach Jackson and Tim Dillard.

Jeffress, the 18th overall pick in the first round in 2006, has a crackling fastball and nasty slider. He missed the first 50 games this season on suspension for testing positive for using an illegal substance last year, but has 65 strikeouts in his 47 2-3 innings at Brevard County.

The 20-year-old right-hander has fanned 197 in 168 innings with 87 walks in his pro career, going 14-13 with a 4.02 ERA.

Jackson, 25, has gone downhill since being acquired from Toronto in a trade after the 2005 season. He's only 1-5 with a 7.83 ERA at Triple-A Nashville this year.

The 25-year-old lefty went 16-8 across three levels in his final year in the Blue Jays' system.

He's twice gotten the call to Milwaukee, going 2-2 with a 5.40 ERA in eight games including seven starts in 2006 and compiling a 4.91 ERA this year in two brief relief outings.

He's a pitcher similar to former Indians lefty Jason Stanford. He isn't overpower and has to rely on good command. When he hits his spots, he's effective. Otherwise, he gets hit.

Dillard went 4-0 with a 1.91 in 20 games, all in relief, this year at Triple-A Nashville. Called up to the Brewers for the first time, he's got a 1.35 ERA in 6 2-3 innings over six outings. The 24-year-old right-hander, picked in the 34th round in 2003, has a 37-28 record and 3.32 ERA in 168 games in the minors.

A pitcher who would definitely interest the Indians is reliever Luis Pena, a 25-year-old who has 12 saves this year at Triple-A Nashville.

The 6-5 right-hander was switched to relief in 2007 and went 5-4 with 18 saves and a 2.63 ERA in 51 games combined at High Class A and Double-A. This year, in 32 2-3 innings over 34 games, he is 1-0 with a 3.58 ERA, 22 walks and 30 strikeouts.

Command has always been an issue. In 510 minor-league innings, Pena has 222 walks and 410 strikeouts. When he puts his fastball on both sides of the plate, he's effective.

Then again, that's the same thing that was always said about former Indians right-handers Jason Davis and Jorge Julio, too.

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