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11/01/08 9:45 PM EST

CC officially files for free agency

Brewers could make first offer to left-hander on Monday

MILWAUKEE -- Unless the Brewers can lure him back, the CC Sabathia era in Milwaukee officially ended Saturday.

The left-hander was one of three Brewers and 23 Major Leaguers to formally file for free agency on Saturday. Brewers infielders Ray Durham and Russell Branyan were also on the list.

Brewers general manager Doug Melvin has not announced his intentions regarding Durham or Branyan, but he has been clear about making a play for Sabathia, regarded all but unanimously as the best pitcher available on the winter free-agent market. Sabathia could fetch a contract similar to or better than the seven-year, $137 million pact between the Mets and lefty Johan Santana, but the Brewers are hoping Sabathia will accept a shorter deal, perhaps with a higher average salary, to remain with the team he led to the 2008 National League Wild Card.

After the Phillies eliminated the Brewers in Game 4 of the NL Division Series, Sabathia said that dollars would not be the only determining factor.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say this is one of the better times I've had in my career," he said. "Meeting these guys and being on this team, it was a good experience.

"Environment-wise, this is a young, talented team -- great clubhouse. Guys get along and have fun. Like I said, I really enjoyed my time here. I think that was my thing even in Cleveland. I want to have fun. I like to play this game. I like to be around people I enjoy. You've got to be around them eight months out of a year. That will all factor in."

Melvin originally said he planned to submit a formal offer to Sabathia before leaving Saturday for the General Managers Meetings in California, but according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, that offer will more likely be filed on Monday. That's the same day Melvin needs to decide whether to exercise a $10 million club option on center fielder Mike Cameron.

The Brewers have exclusive negotiating rights with Sabathia and their other free agents through Nov. 13. Other teams can call Greg Genske, Sabathia's agent, to express interest, and can even disclose the length of a deal they would be willing to offer, but are barred from discussing financial terms.

If Sabathia signs elsewhere, the Brewers would receive two compensatory Draft picks before the end of the second round, because he is a Type-A free agent. So is right-hander Ben Sheets, who filed for free agency on Thursday.

The Brewers parted with four prospects to acquire Sabathia from Cleveland on July 7, and he delivered more than Melvin & Co. expected. In 17 Brewers starts, Sabathia was 11-2 with a 1.65 ERA. He nearly pitched a no-hitter on Oct. 31 in Pittsburgh -- the only hit was a debatable infield single -- for one of his seven Brewers complete games and three shutouts.

Including 18 starts in Cleveland, Sabathia was 17-10 with a 2.70 ERA and led the Majors in innings (253) and complete games (10), and ranked second with 251 strikeouts.

The Brewers acquired Durham a month after they picked up Sabathia, sending two Minor League pitchers to San Francisco for the veteran second baseman. Durham hit .280 in 41 games with Milwaukee and played a key role in September, hitting .314 in 51 at-bats while platooning with incumbent second baseman Rickie Weeks.

Branyan sparked the Brewers after a May 24 promotion from Triple-A Nashville but was sidelined during the second week of August by a strained oblique muscle. Branyan was reinstated for the final week of the regular season but was left off the team's postseason roster.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.