When the rumors of Shin-Soo Choo being traded to Cincinnati for OF Drew Stubbs and minor league SS Didi Gregorius started yesterday, our immediate reaction was a sickening feeling.
Trading one of the team’s best hitters, even though he would be a free agent at the end of the year, for a minor leaguer (when your farm system is loaded with prospects at that position) and another strikeout machine with a low batting average, isn’t very attractive.
However, dealing Choo for a potential big time starting pitcher is a good move.
Getting Trevor Bauer, Arizona’s top pitching prospect, a guy who is among the top ten prospects in all of baseball, for a player who wasn’t going to be with the Indians after 2013 has to be considered a win for GM Chris Antonetti.
In order to get back to the top of the AL Central, the Tribe needs to improve their starting pitching, and getting one of the best prospects in the game has to be viewed favorably.
And it was done without trading SS Asdrubal Cabrera, which had been rumored over the last month.
Bauer will be 22 next season and last year went 12-2 between AA and AAA with a 2.42 ERA and 157 strikeouts in 130 innings. He did make four big league starts, going 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA.
That’s what you call a small sample though.
Antonetti also received a couple of hard throwing bullpen guys in Mitch Albers and Bryan Shaw to increase depth in the relief corps. Perhaps one of those two or a guy like Joe Smith can be used in another trade.
The other players the Tribe gave up were superfluous. Jason Donald never looked to be more than a platoon player and his best defensive position was 2B. He was stuck behind newcomer Mike Aviles anyway.
Tony Sipp was a key part of the Indians bullpen the past few years, but with Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes on the roster, he was a candidate to be moved.
And Lars Anderson was a throw in.
Do the Indians still have work to do? Of course. The loss of Choo leaves a huge void in an offense that already struggled to score runs last season. Stubbs and his low batting average (he hit .214 last year) and ton of strikeouts, doesn’t come near to replacing him.
They also still could use a proven starting pitcher to go along with Justin Masterson. That would put Carlos Carrasco, Ubaldo Jimenez and Bauer in the mix to be the fourth and fifth guys in the rotation to start the year.
Meaning Jimenez could be expendable.
As for Cabrera, the trade rumors that swirled around him at the winter meetings may have been the Indians sending him a message.
The past two seasons, he has either came to spring training heavy or gained weight during the season. The organization may have been telling him to get his act together, and Terry Francona may be saying it is time to realize his talent.
It is doubtful the Tribe will deal him now, because that would mean having to find two good offensive players to replace him and Choo.
Forget about Stubbs, if can figure out how to make contact, he will be an asset. He is an excellent defensive outfielder and can steal a base if he can get to first.
His lack of contact, as well as that of Mark Reynolds, who figures to be the Indians’ first baseman will not help the offense. Although the Tribe did need a guy who can score a run with one swing of the bat.
If Reynolds can hit 30 HRs, he will help. But make no mistake, he’s an all or nothing hitter. If he’s hitting in the 7-8-9 spot, that’s okay.
The reason to be excited about this deal is getting a potential ace like Bauer. The Indians haven’t been able to draft a top of the rotation pitcher since C.C. Sabathia.
They may have got one yesterday for a player who was going to leave after next season.