This year's trade deadline is all about Cliff Lee and last year's deadline was all about Lee and Roy Halladay, but the star pitcher of the 2008 trade deadline was dealt long before July 31st. Two years ago today, the Indians sent C.C. Sabathia to the Brewers for Rob Bryson, Zach Jackson, Matt LaPorta and a player to be named (eventually Michael Brantley).
C.C. pitched well – probably even better than the Brewers could have imagined. He made 17 starts, finishing seven of them, and ended up with an 11-2 mark and a 1.65 ERA. Remarkably, Sabathia led both leagues in shutouts in 2008 and pitched the Brewers to their first postseason appearance since 1982. The eventual World Series champion Phillies ousted the Brewers in four games and Sabathia didn't pitch well in his lone playoff start, but the Brewers would not have made the postseason without their ace.
The Brewers also received two compensation picks for losing Sabathia to free agency after offering arbitration. Last year they used those picks to select Kentrail Davis (ranked 6th among Brewers prospects by Baseball America preseason) and Maxwell Walla (ranked 28th).
The Brewers weren't the only ones to add young talent, though. LaPorta, the centerpiece of the deal, hasn't had a great deal of major league success until recently. His overall season line (.242/.315/.376) is pedestrian, but the 25-year-old has homered four times in his last seven games. Bryson, 22, has posted 17.0 K/9 in high A ball this year and Brantley, who entered the season as the Indians' 6th best prospect, has a .391 OBP at Triple A.
As I suggested one year after this trade was completed, some deals benefit both teams. The Brewers ended up making the playoffs and obtaining draft choices, but the Indians added more talent than they would have obtained with a pair of top picks.