The Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians partnered on a three-team trade late Tuesday night, with the key figures changing places being Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who is heading to Cincinnati in exchange for Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs. The Reds are expected to try Choo out in center field after a career as a strong right fielder.
The total deal worked out like this: the Reds get Choo and utility infielder Jason Donald from the Indians. The Indians got Stubbs from the Reds and pitching prospect Trevor Bauer and major league relievers Brian Shaw and Matt Albers from the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks got shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius from the Reds and major league reliever Tony Sipp and minor league first baseman Lars Anderson from the Indians.
There was so much more to this deal than just the swapping out outfielders. The Diamondbacks got involved, and in their search for a shortstop ended up with Reds prospect Didi Gregorius. I had just finished breaking down the rumor of Gregorius heading to the Indians when news of the Diamondbacks involvement entered the frey, but you can check out that breakdown here. The short version: Gregorius is a defense-first shortstop who needs to refine his consistency in the field but can become valuable enough to warrant everyday playing time even though he'll likely offer very little with the bat. He's also ready to be the Diamondbacks shortstop this coming season.
For their involvement, the Diamondbacks parted with Trevor Bauer, sending the 2011 3rd overall draft pick to the Indians, and essentially selling him for 50 cents on the dollar. Bauer was considered by many to be the top overall arm in the 2011 draft, with some teams liking him even better than UCLA teammate Gerrit Cole, who went first overall to the Pirates. Other teams were put off by his unique training regimen and pitching philosophies, as well as his religious adherence to them. He even went as far as to say he wouldn't sign with any team who wouldn't let him continue his extreme long-toss program.
Bauer's professional career has been mixed with struggle and domination, with the juxtoposition sometimes coming within the course of a single game. In his first full season in the minors, Bauer posted a 2.42 ERA between Double and Triple-A, striking out an impressive 10.8 batters per nine innings, but walking 4.2 batters per nine over the same span.
WIth Bauer, it can be difficult to determine whether his high walk totals come from a lack of command or a refusal to give into hitters and vary from his plan. What is clear, however, is that the extra base runners hurt him dearly in the major leagues.
In four major league starts, Bauer struck out 17 batters in a 16 1/3 innings, but walked 13, leading to a 6.06 ERA. There were also reports of the Diamondbacks souring on his philosophy and attitude, and that, coupled with diminished velocity towards the end of the year apparently made him expendable.
It's hard to make an argument that doesn't end with the Diamondbacks having sold pretty low on Bauer. Just a year-and-a-half after he was selected third overall, the Diamondbacks essentially traded him for a defense-only shortstop. That doesn't seem like a good return, even if Bauer only ends up becoming 75 percent of what was originally expected out of him.
The former Red Sox top prospect, Anderson was once rumored to be headed to countless teams for countless star players. His prospect stock has fallen drastically over the past four seasons, to the point where he was flipped to the Indians for virtually nothing and was essentially a throw-in in this deal.
Still just 25, Anderson never grew into the power that his 6'4" frame suggests he should have. After a .934 OPS in the low minors in 2008, everyone was high on Anderson, but he's spend the past three seasons in Triple-A and has a career .272/.369/.432 line at the level.
What Anderson can do is hit for a decent average and get on base. Unfortunately, that's not enough at first base.
Three-team trades are tough to gauge, but it seems like the Reds and Indians did pretty well here. The Reds added a desperately needed leadoff hitter, and the only question for them is surrounding Choo's ability to play center field. They won't miss Gregorius all that much, and he was a reasonable price to pay for a year of Choo while they are still squarely in the middle of their window to contend.
The Indians have a few valuable assets, but not enough to truly compete this season, so it makes sense for them to trade some of them for rebuilding pieces. Stubbs is a viable major leaguer and they got a potential front-of-the-rotation arm in Bauer without giving up their top asset Asdrubal Cabrera.
The Diamondbacks, on the other hand, traded a top draft pick less than two years after selecting him for a defense-only shortstop, after having already traded a valuable (albeit flawed) center fielder in Chris Young for another defense-only shortstop (Cliff Pennington). The Diamondbacks had excess depth in their starting rotation and in their outfield entering this off-season and have traded from a strength, but they simply aren't getting enough talent in return for their moves.