In a nutshell, from the Indians’ perspective this massive three-way trade will come down to Shin-Soo Choo for Trevor Bauer. The Reds made this trade specifically to replace Drew Stubbs, so it is difficult to expect anything out of him other than batting ninth and striking out a lot. The drop in production from Choo to Stubbs will probably cancel out the gain we got from signing Mark Reynolds.
The bullpen arms (Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers) may be a slight upgrade over Tony Sipp and getting two relievers for one puts us in position to make more moves, but it also makes Nick Hagadone the primary lefty in the ‘pen, which is an honor he has not yet earned. In general, though, I would rather give a guy like Hagadone a full shot than spend $2 million on a journeyman free agent.
Jason Donald was good as gone the day Mike Aviles showed up, and he seems more like an NL player to me anyway—good for pinch-running and double-switches, but not a guy you want as your only infield option off the bench. And if Lars Anderson walked into my office right now I would not recognize him, so it’s hard to say he is going to be missed.
In the long run, this is a very good trade. Bauer has more upside than any other pitcher on the Indians’ roster or in their farm system, and he can join Justin Masterson, Carlos Carrasco, and Zach McAllister to form the core of a good young rotation that is under control for at least two years. Teams rarely give up such prospects, and for the Tribe to work out a complex trade that netted Bauer while essentially giving up one year of Choo deserves plaudits.
In the short term, how well this turns out for 2013 depends on whether Bauer is ready to make an immediate impact. His short stay in Arizona last year did not go well, but young pitchers find their stride at different speeds, so he may be awesome in April or it could take a couple of years. To me, anything the Indians get from Drew Stubbs is a bonus. The good news is that most of his productivity comes against left-handers, so he may thrive if teams continue to throw southpaws against Cleveland’s lefty-heavy lineup. He is a good defender, probably good enough to push Michael Brantley back to left, where he was excellent. Offensively, though, he hasn’t been even average since 2010, and if he duplicates his 2012 numbers next year the Indians are probably better off playing Ezequiel Carrera, at least as a platoon.
On paper, the 2012 version of Matt Albers is better than the 2012 version of Tony Sipp, and I won’t miss the deer in the headlights look that Sipp always had with runners on base. Last year looks like an outlier for Albers, though. For his career he has given up more than a hit an inning, and his K/BB ratio is less than 2:1, which generally points to not being reliable in high-leverage situations. Pretty much like Tony Sipp, in other words. Bryan Shaw is about the same, so we got two guys who can pitch the seventh inning. At this point, that would mean some decent pitchers would end up in Columbus, including possibly one of these two, so this may be the prelude to another deal.
What this trade does do is create the need for another solid bat. Assuming Stubbs hits ninth, you would be looking at the last five spots in the order being a strikeout machine in Reynolds, an untested Lonnie Chisenhall; the winner of the DH competition (Russ Canzler, Matt LaPorta, or whoever else the team digs up), a right fielder who as of now is unidentified, and Stubbs. The odds of all of those guys going cold at the same time are pretty good, so getting a right fielder who can legitimately hit fifth and push everyone down a notch so that we don’t have too many dead spots in the lineup is critical.
Fortunately, there is still plenty of money to spend and depth in the bullpen and at shortstop, so there is reason to believe Chris Antonetti can pull something off. For today, though, he has made a good trade.