PHILADELPHIA -- Could there be a red-pinstriped No. 52 jersey waiting for CC Sabathia next season?

Go ahead and dream, Phillies fans. At this point, anything is possible.

The Phillies had hoped to add the 28-year-old star lefty for this year's stretch drive, but didn't have a coveted prospect like Matt LaPorta to headline a package. As a result, their offer came in second to one proposed by the Brewers.

Sabathia has been phenomenal with Milwaukee, posting a 9-0 record with a 1.59 ERA. Philadelphia caught a break, since Sabathia won't pitch in the weekend's critical series.

The Phillies may be one of many teams pursuing Sabathia this offseason, but the field will be crowded and could include the Yankees, Angels and Dodgers, with the latter two the early favorites, given Sabathia's believed desire to return home to California.

"I haven't thought about that at all," said Sabathia, whose asking price could approach or exceed the six-year, $137.5 million deal the Mets gave Johan Santana. "We have so much going on right now, I'll worry about that after the season."

Sabathia acknowledged that the Phillies have a powerful recruiter in manager Charlie Manuel, who fought to take the then 20-year-old north with the Indians out of Spring Training in 2001.

"He gave me a shot," Sabathia said. "He told me if I came in and played well, he'd put me on the team, and kept his word despite what a lot of people in the Indians' organization thought. He means a lot to me."

Pausing for reflection, Sabathia broke into a wide smile, a typical reaction when discussing Manuel. He laughingly recalled the hitting guru's tips during a particular 2001 at-bat in Pittsburgh.

At the time, Sabathia, a career .278 hitter with three homers in 79 at-bats, was making his second Major League plate appearance. He had sacrificed in his first trip, but this time had the bases loaded with one out.

Sabathia recalled getting ahead in the count, either 2-0 or 3-0, and peering into the dugout.

"He just told me to swing away," Sabathia said. "I hit into a double play and we lost, 1-0 [on June 17, 2001]. When I got back to the dugout, he smiled and said he thought I was going to hit a home run."

"I would've liked to hit in this park," he added, referring to Citizens Bank Park.

The Phillies are happy he won't be pitching or hitting in Philadelphia, at least not this season.