It took nine players shuttling among three teams for the Indians to solve some of their problems.
Most of the Tribe’s focus in the offseason has revolved around deficiencies of the offense, but the rotation is at least equally in need of a boost. To that end, General Manager Chris Antonetti acquired the Arizona Diamondbacks’ top selection in the 2011 draft, Trevor Bauer, who was the third pick overall.
Another vexing problem was what to do with Shin-Soo Choo, who can walk away as a free agent after the 2013 season. Antonetti had three viable choices: Wait until the July 31 trading deadline to deal Choo to the highest bidder, keep the versatile outfielder through the entire schedule and hope he brings a first-round compensatory draft choice when/if he leaves, or trade him now. Antonetti chose the latter route.
Here’s how the deal shook out:
The Indians dealt Choo and utility player Jason Donald to the Cincinnati Reds, then shipped veteran reliever Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson to the Diamondbacks.
The Reds sent once-bright outfield prospect Drew Stubbs to the Indians and minor-league shortstop Didi Gregorius, one of the club’s top 10 prospects, to the Diamondbacks.
The Diamondbacks delivered relievers Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers, in addition to Bauer, to the Indians.
The Indians are sending the Reds $3.5 million to make up the difference between the salaries of Choo and Stubbs.
Bauer, 21, was the first player from the draft class of 2011 to reach the major leagues, starting four games last season. He compiled a 1-2 record and 6.06 ERA in four games, walking 13 and striking out 17 in 16⅓ innings.
Striking out hitters in bunches and walking them in bunches have been characteristic of his infant pro career. He began the season at Class AA Mobile and posted a 7-1 record and 1.68 ERA in eight starts. He also walked 26 and struck out 60 in 48⅓ innings.
After being promoted to Triple-A Reno, Bauer compiled a 5-1 record and 2.85 ERA in 14 starts, walking 35 and striking out 97 in 82 innings. He is not guaranteed a spot in the Tribe rotation out of spring training, but he will be looked at closely.
“He has some development left to do, but he did go through the minors quickly,” Antonetti said. “We expect him to impact our team in 2013, whether that’s from the start of the season remains to be seen. We feel we have a young pitcher who has top-of-the-rotation potential.”
Antonetti doesn’t know yet if Stubbs will play center field or left. Last year’s center fielder, Michael Brantley, also has played left field.
“We’re still working through that,” he said. “We’re happy with the job Brantley did, but Stubbs is a great defensive center fielder with speed and power.”
Stubbs, 28, was the eighth overall pick in the 2008 draft. He has played one partial season and three full years in the majors. Unfortunately for the Indians, his numbers (home runs, RBI, batting average) have declined each season, and his strikeout rate (one every three at-bats) has remained steady.
If newly signed first baseman Mark Reynolds and Stubbs play every day, they could easily amass close to 400 strikeouts between them.
Last season, Stubbs batted .213 with 14 homers, 40 RBI and 75 runs, striking out 166 times in 493 at-bats.
Shaw, 24, was 1-6 with two saves and a 3.49 ERA in 64 appearances (59⅓ IP), and Albers, 29, posted a 1-1 record and 2.57 ERA in 23 appearances encompassing 21 innings.
“Albers and Shaw are hard-throwing guys who add depth to our bullpen,” Antonetti said.
Choo leaves a big hole to fill in the outfield. Last season, which was not Choo’s best, he batted .283 with 16 home runs, 67 RBI and 21 steals. He also compiled a .373 on-base percentage. As a right fielder (apparently he will play center at Great American Ball Park), he can run down distant drives and has a strong throwing arm. His only liability is a tendency to take the wrong route on balls hit over his head.
“We feel we have options internally [to play right],” Antonetti said. “But we also can look elsewhere for an opportunity to improve our team.”
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.