When I first heard that the Tribe was on the brink of dealing right fielder Shin-Soo Choo on Tuesday night, I was a little confused. Early in the process, Choo was rumored to be going to Cincinnati for Didi Gregorius and Drew Stubbs. After the signing of Mark Reynolds, I was under the assumption that the Indians were going to attack their weaknesses (like the missing right-handed power hitter in the middle of the order) and try to piece together a team through cheap, low-risk free agent acquisitions.
Then the big trade happened.
The Indians are officially trying to win while in transition after acquiring Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks, cashing in on the affordable Gregorius, and maintaining control of All-Star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. If the Tribe goes into rebuilding mode, Cabrera can instantly provide a great return of prospects, but the team is clearly hoping that some of the players coming back in the three-team deal improve their current roster.
While the team may be a little weaker at the top of the order (Choo has a .386 OBP in 461 plate appearances and Stubbs has a .320 OBP in 869 plate appearances as a leadoff hitter), Stubbs is a tremendous athlete and immediately makes the outfield stronger, allowing Michael Brantley to slide over to left field. Stubbs has a great power and speed combination and he is capable of becoming a Mike Cameron-like talent, reaching near 30 home runs and 30 stolen bases in a season…if he controls his strikeout rates. (And that’s a big if.)
Bauer is the shocker in this deal. I honestly thought the club had no shot at getting Bauer or Tyler Skaggs without dealing Asdrubal Cabrera. It is mind-numbing to know that a team has given up on a top prospect due to his “strange” ways of warming up (Bauer typically long-tosses up to 400 feet prior to his starts, to the displeasure of Arizona officials). Long-tossing strengthens the shoulders tremendously and teams are beginning to look into the value it may have in prospect development while the Diamondbacks run and hide from it. Their loss is Cleveland’s gain, as Bauer should push Francisco Lindor to the No. 2 spot on their top prospect list heading into the 2013 season.
Tony Sipp, Jason Donald, and Lars Anderson were scraps to the Indians. Never truly a part of the club’s long-term plans, Anderson became even more replaceable after the Michael McDade and Chris McGuinness pickups for first base and designated hitter depth. As for Sipp and Donald…you need only look at their results to see why they weren’t important to the process.
So, with the Mark Reynolds signing and the theft of Trevor Bauer, at the expense of a player, in Choo, who wasn’t going to re-sign with the club after reaching free agency anyway, the Indians are winning more than Charlie Sheen at a bachelor party.
Is it possible that the Indians are using a Tampa Bay Rays-like approach to winning while in a transition? They’re finally taking a risk and piecing together a roster full of untapped potential. Bauer, Stubbs, Carlos Santana, Lonnie Chisenhall, Jason Kipnis, Brantley, Cabrera (if they keep him around), and those yet to come…
It looks like Chris Antonetti has finally figured out a direction for the team. I’m excited to see the final results.