CINCINNATI – Two months isn’t long enough to clearly evaluate any baseball trade but the initial returns on the three-team, nine-player deal the Reds and Indians were involved in last December have been good so far.
The Reds were in need of a leadoff hitter who could consistently get on base and they got that in Shin-Soo Choo. The Indians knew their prospects of re-signing Choo to a long-term deal before he becomes a free agent next offseason weren’t good. In need of revamping their roster with an eye on the future they accomplished that goal with the deal.
For those who don’t remember the particulars of the Dec. 11 trade, Choo came to the Reds along with infielder Jason Donald and cash in exchange for centerfielder Drew Stubbs and shortstop Didi Gregorius. The Indians then traded Gregorius, first baseman Lars Anderson and lefthander Tony Sipp to Arizona for right-handed pitchers Trevor Bauer, Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers.
Choo has comfortably moved into the leadoff spot for the Reds, delivering a .442 on-base percentage that is third only to Joey Votto (.475) and Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera (.454) among all Major League players and helped the Reds score 245 runs, the second-most in the National League.
Stubbs is playing every day in one of the best defensive outfields in the big leagues, while Shaw and Albers have a combined 35 appearances out of the bullpen. Bauer has made three starts with Cleveland as the Indians plan on easing him to the majors as opposed to the rushed approach the Diamondbacks had with him.
“I hope it’s not going under the radar what (general manager) Chris (Antonetti) did this winter,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “I get a front row seat and I get to see all of the work that goes into even things that don’t get done, but he went out and got guys as we’re trying to balance the present with the future. It’s not a very easy thing to do.
“He got guys who are outstanding in the clubhouse and he got baseball players. That last one is the one that excites me as much as anything.”
Despite having lost six of their last seven games going into Tuesday night’s contest at Great American Ball Park, the Indians are still four games over .500 (27-23) and within 2.5 games of defending American League champion Detroit in the AL Central division.
The Reds went after Choo after falling in five games in the divisional round of the playoffs last season to San Francisco. It was well documented how ineffective those who were in the leadoff spot were – seven different players batted at the top of the lineup in 2012 with a combined .208 average, .254 on-base percentage and just 83 runs scored.
Choo has already scored 40 runs this season himself.
“I didn’t really have any expectations because I only saw him from across the field,” said Reds manager Dusty Baker. “Guys look like a million dollars sometimes on the other side of the field and then you get them on and they’re worth 50 cents. Then there are guys that look like 50 cents but they’re worth a million dollars when you get them on your side of the field with the intangible things they do to help you win.
“We knew he was a good player. What we didn’t know is that he’s a better teammate than he is a player.”
In all likelihood the Reds are not going to be able to afford Choo when he becomes a free agent. They knew what they were getting and they’re OK with that scenario. The plan is to win this year.