The Indians’ backs were up against the wall. With Scott Boras’ hand firmly clenched around Shin-Soo Choo’s wrist, much like an angry mother with child in tow, the super-agent was leading Cleveland’s right fielder out of town. And everyone knew this. Boras even went as far as to publicly question — and rightfully so, maybe — ownership’s commitment to winning.
Choo, who’s heading into his final season under team control, already rebuffed numerous attempts by the Indians for a long term contract, leaving the organization with just three options: deal him during the offseason, move him near the deadline, or let walk via free agency and nab (hopefully) a draft pick.
Well, we know which option they went with.
Tonight, the Indians shipped Choo and utility infielder Jason Donald to the Reds for center fielder Drew Stubbs and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius. Cleveland then flipped Gregorius, reliever Tony Sipp and minor league first baseman Lars Anderson for right-handers Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers.
The Indians have more than a few holes in the rotation, and acquiring Bauer, the number three pick in the 2011 draft, should fill one of those. He seemingly fell out of favor rather quickly in Arizona, particularly after his disappointing four-game MLB stint in midseason, and it’s hard to understand why.
He’s been dominant along each brief stop in minors, averaging more than 11.5 K/9 to go along with a 3.01 Skill Independent ERA. The lone red flag thus far has been slightly below-average command, though it did improve to 3.13 BB/9 after his demotion in July. He instantly becomes Cleveland’s best pitching prospect and their best overall prospect, even ahead of shortstop wunderkind Francisco Lindor. The further development of his command will ultimately determine if he can develop into a true ace or settle as a good number two.
Stubbs is a very toolsy center fielder coming off of the worst season of his career. He has solid-average power, plus speed, and an above-average glove in center field. Sure, he strikes out a lot – a helluva lot, actually (29.3% in his career). But I don’t give a damn about that. It didn’t hinder him from totaling more than 6.5 wins above replacement in 2010 and 2011. What did cause his decline last season was a major regression in batting average on balls in play, or BABIP. From 2010 and 2011 his BABIP was .337; last season it was nearly 50 points lower, at .290.
Stubbs is also kind of the anti-Choo, struggling against righties, not lefties. But fortunately enough for the Indians, a sizeable amount of his value comes from his speed, either on the base paths or in the outfield. He’s going to improve in 2013 and should be capable of putting up something north of 2.5 wins above replacement, or about Choo’s production last season.
Both Shaw and Albers are middle relief arms, serviceable but certainly replaceable, much like Tony Sipp.
Choo was once an elite five-tool player, posting more than 11 wins above replacement between 2009 and 2010. Since then he’s battled injuries (2011) and a lot of defensive struggles last season. His total offensive production, however, was still 31% above the league average.
For the Reds, though, it’s a bit of a questionable move, leaving the team without a true center fielder. And he or Jay Bruce will be asked to fill in, which could hinder a fairly significant amount of one of the players’ total value.
The second player received, Jason Donald, never really got a fair shake in Cleveland, which is unfortunate. He definitely has value as an offensive-minded role-player that can handle lefties (.282/.349/.426 in his career).
Gregorius was aggressively pushed through the Reds’ system, reaching Triple-A last season at the age of 22. And consequently, his bat quite hasn’t caught up yet. But he’s capable of developing into a solid-average bat with average-ish walk rates and power. He could develop into a 2.0- to 3.0-win player, depending how the defensive metrics rate him, which could be quite favorably.
Sipp’s always posted fantastic K-rates throughout his career, and while his command has improved, the propensity for homeruns has really gnawed into his overall value. He was quite a bit unlucky last year (71.9% strand rate).
Anderson’s a quad-A player, sort of. He was once a former top prospect but has really petered out over the last few seasons.
Overall, the Indians should easily win this one; they acquired a Major League ready starting pitcher who should step in and at the very worst become a good number three, as well as an above-average outfielder and two serviceable relief arms. For the Reds and Diamondbacks it’s more of a question mark. Who plays center for Cincinnati? And is Tony Sipp and Didi Gregorius really worth Trevor Bauer? Probably not.