(Sports Network) - You were starting to wonder if the Cincinnati Reds were
ever going to find themselves a leadoff hitter or a center fielder this
Sure, Michael Bourn would have been nice, but with a potential payroll of
around $90 million, and the exact same player in Billy Hamilton waiting in the
wings at Triple-A. most Cincinnati fans had to realize that was never going to
The Reds did better than anyone could have expected on Tuesday and filled both
needs, acquiring Shin-Soo Choo from the Cleveland Indians in exchange for Drew
Stubbs and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius as part of a three-team, nine-
player deal that also included the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Now Choo isn't your prototypical center fielder. In fact, he's only played 10
games there in his 8-year career, or 37 less than the recently re-signed Ryan
The Reds, though, think it will be an easy transition for Choo.
"We've haven't seen him out there," Cincinnati general manager Walt Jocketty
said. "But he runs well. He goes left to right and right to left well. We
think he can make the transition."
Most assume the 30-year-old South Korean will be fine in the field, but where
his value will really come into play is at the top of the lineup, a spot that
the Reds had no luck filling last season. The Reds struggled mightily getting
on base in 2011, but Choo owns a career .381 on-base percentage and last
season stole 21 bases in 28 attempts overall.
He'll also offer some much needed pop from the left-side, as he owns a .307
batting average, .400 on-base percentage and .514 slugging percentage against
righties in his career.
In 155 games last season Choo batted .283 with 16 homers, 43 doubles and 67
Now in Gregorius the Reds give up one of their top prospects for what amounts
to be a rental player in Choo, who is eligible to become a free agent at the
end of the 2013 season.
But who cares? If Cincinnati wins a World Series next season is anyone going
to remember Gregorius? Plus the last time I checked the Reds already have a
pretty good young shortstop in Zack Cozart, who is under team control for at
least the next five years.
Choo's a stopgap until Hamilton is ready to take over in 2014. And if things
go as planned, the Reds will get a nice little draft pick as compensation when
Choo tests the free agent market after next season.
I've always been in the camp of dealing prospects for established stars,
especially when you are close to winning a title. And the Reds are certainly
in that boat.
"We couldn't afford to improve leadoff through free agency. Some of the trades
we worked on, we weren't able to get done," Jocketty said. "We like Didi a
lot. We think he's got a good future. But we have Zack Cozart for at least
five more years."
Not to mention the Reds also got infielder Jason Donald and more importantly,
$3.5 million from the Indians in the deal. That money should offset the
difference between Stubbs' deal and the $8 million or so Choo will likely get
This was a no-brainer for Cincinnati.
Speaking of Gregorius, his stay in Cleveland was short-lived, as he was sent
to Arizona along left-hander Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson for
right-handers Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw.
So Cleveland winds up with a pretty nice haul for Choo, a player who was
likely to leave anyway, but what exactly are the Diamondbacks doing here?
Gregorius is a nice prospect, but is nowhere near as highly regarded as Bauer,
who could open the year in the Indians' rotation. Gregorius will likely battle
Cliff Pennington to be the D-Backs Opening Day shortstop, but my guess is he
starts the year in Triple-A.
"When I saw him he reminded me of a young Derek Jeter," Arizona general
manager Kevin Towers said of Gregorius. "I was fortunate enough to see Jeter
when he was in high school in Michigan and he's got that type of range. He's
got speed. He's more of a line drive-type hitter, but I think he's got the
type of approach at the plate where I think there's going to be power there as
Pretty high praise for a lifetime .271 hitter over five minor league seasons.
He may turn out to be Jeter, but he's more likely not to be. Bauer, meanwhile,
has electric stuff and would it shock anyone if he's an All-Star five years
If there is one thing Arizona fans can be happy about this almost certainly
ends any trade speculation involving outfielder Justin Upton.
The three-way deal wasn't as sexy as the one being bandied about last week in
Nashville, but given the lack of excitement this offseason, we'll take it.
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