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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Knee-Jerk Reactions: Ohio Collectively Wins Trade with Arizona

The Cleveland Indians and Arizona Diamondbacks finally finished a three-team deal, but it wasn’t with the Rangers and didn’t involve Justin Upton or Asdrubal Cabrera.

Instead, the two teamed up with the Cincinnati Reds in a deal centered around around Shin-Soo Choo.

In all, there are nine players moving. Each team’s haul, with the sending team in parentheses:

Reds: Shin-Soo Choo (Indians), Jason Donald (Indians)
Indians: Trevor Bauer (Diamondbacks), Drew Stubbs (Reds), Bryan Shaw (Diamondbacks), Matt Albers (Diamondbacks)
Diamondbacks: Didi Gregorius (Reds), Tony Sipp (Indians), Lars Anderson (Indians)



There are two really interesting parts to this. The first is Choo with the Reds. Cincinnati is now without a true center fielder, but the offensive help is probably more than enough to make up for it. Reds leadoff hitters had and abysmal .208/.254/.327 triple slash last year. Choo, entering his age-30 season, hit .283/.373/.441 last season, and has hit as well as .300/.401/.484 in the past (as recently as 2010, too). This is a huge upgrade for them. Even though Choo is a free agent after this year, it’s more than made up for by the fact that the Reds didn’t even surrender the best prospect in the deal.

The Indians, I would say, also won. Granted, they don’t get the certainty of Choo for 2012; but, he was leaving next year, while Bauer gives them the better opportunity to win going forward. The starter just finished his age-21 season, and while his first four starts weren’t ideal, there’s a lot of hope for the future. The 2011 #3 pick threw 130.1 innings in AA and AAA last year and picked up 157 strikeouts while allowing a 2.42 ERA and a 1.289 WHIP. Keith Law listed him as the #21 best prospect before 2012, and has been projected as an ace. He may be ready to start this season, and provides Cleveland with a lot of upside.

The Diamondbacks are the only team that confuses me. Yes, they had a pitching surplus. But most teams were still very high on Bauer’s potential; for someone who was rated so highly, this is a weak-looking return. Gregorius is a strong-fielding shortstop who can’t hit; his minor league career has seen him hit .271/.323/.376. Yes, he’s 22 in AA, but minor league OBPs below .330 are not anything to get excited about. Sipp is a 29-year old reliever who hasn’t shown himself to be extraordinarily dominant. Anderson is a former well regarded prospect who’s now 25 and only has 56 plate appearances in the majors. In AAA last year, he hit .250/.353/.396, which wouldn’t be bad if he played up the middle. Instead, he’s a first baseman. Maybe he can put it all together, but he won’t be getting a shot in Arizona, with Paul Goldschmidt there now. None of those players looks good enough to justify giving up a prospect like Trevor Bauer.

As for the other four players that are headed to the two Ohio teams, most are closer to spare parts. Matt Albers is a 30-year old reliever with a career 94 ERA+. Shaw is a 25-year old reliever with fewer than 90 innings in the majors. He’s carried a 129 ERA+ so far, and he looks most likely to be a decent middle reliever if nothing else. Donald is a below-average hitting utility man.

Stubbs is the only other player with any sort of serious value, and that’s more of a possibility than a certainty. His batting average on balls in play was a career low last year (.290), and if it bounces back up to his career .323 mark, he’ll provide league average offense and a solid glove in center fielder, making him slightly above starter level. He’s 28, so he’s still fairly young, but he’s probably more of a useful part than an all-star.

So, the long short of it: the Reds made a smart all-in move to compete next year; the Indians got a great prospect to maximize their possible future winning; and the Diamondbacks got involved for reasons that are not clear to me.

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