Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Positives and negatives about the Shin-Soo Choo trade

On Tuesday, the Reds pulled off a rare blockbuster trade that involved three-teams and nine-players. The general reaction regarding the deal has been mostly positive from folks around Cincinnati. That is because the team landed coveted outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to help provide a spark at the top of the batting order and to patrol the vast spaces in Great American Ball Park.

Here is a look at some positives and negatives about the deal:

+ The Reds received a huge upgrade at the top of the order. Their leadoff hitters ranked dead last in MLB in average (.208) and on-base percentage (.254) in 2012. Choo batted .283 and got on base at a clip of .373.
+ The Reds also received $3.5 million from the Indians to help offset the projected difference in cost between Stubbs and Choo. The arbitration-eligible Choo earned $4.9 million last season and is expected to receive $7.9 million this upcoming season. Meanwhile, Stubbs is expected to rake in $2.9 in 2013 after making $527,500 in 2012.
+ Shortstop Didi Gregorius, one the team's top defensive prospects, was sent packing as part of the deal. However, Gregorius appeared to be expendable with 26-year old Zack Cozart already firmly in place as the starter at short.
+ Choo boasted a healthy balance of several attributes in '12. The 30-year old showed speed (21 stolen bases), power (16 homers), power to the gaps (43 doubles), ability to get on base and score (88 runs scored), solid defense (.993 fielding percentage), and durability (155 games played).
+ Choo will be eligible for free agency for the first time upon conclusion of this next season. His agent Scott Boras is undoubtedly seeking to help his client receive a huge payday when that time comes. Players typically exceed their career averages when playing in a "contract year". I would expect much of the same from Choo as he looks to boost his stock value prior to inking a big deal next winter.
+ Choo will act as a bridge of sorts between Stubbs and top prospect Billy Hamilton as Hamilton prepares to take over the reins in center field once Choo's days are numbered in the Queen City.
+ Choo batted .333/.419/.571 when leading off innings in '12. He led off an inning with a home run or double on 27 different occasions.

+ Drew Stubbs and Gregorius are no longer members of the organization.
+ Choo has played in exactly 699 games as a big leaguer, but only 10 of those have come in center field. The club is anticipating that he will make the transition from right field to center without a hiccup, but it may take him a little while to completely adjust.
+ Cincinnati is essentially renting Choo for one year before likely losing him to free agency next offseason.
+ The Reds will miss Stubbs' defensive range in center. He accounted for many run-saving catches and plays over the past few years.

Overall, this a great trade for the Redlegs. They addressed their weakness at the leadoff spot and did so by giving up a player who's numbers have declined steadily over the past three years (Stubbs) and a player who wasn't likely to see much action anytime soon (Gregorius) with Zack Cozart occupying the same position. So, they were able to improve their team without much subtraction.

They also pull off this deal without any sort of long-term commitment to Choo and look to be in great position to hand over the keys to center to Hamilton once he is ready, presumably by 2014. Cincy's lineup now looks as formidable as any other contender heading into next season. They have guys who have a track record of getting on base and plenty of guys who can subsequently drive them in. In fact, here is how their projected Opening Day lineup shakes out at this moment in time.

CF Choo
2B Phillips
1B Votto
LF Ludwick
RF Bruce
3B Frazier
SS Cozart
C Hanigan
P Cueto

That isn't too shabby at all.

Overall Trade Grade for CIN: A

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