CLEVELAND – The Indians and Shin-Soo Choo look as though they will be parting ways before next season begins.
Multiple reports broke Tuesday night that the Indians were negotiating a three-team trade with the Reds and Diamondbacks that would send Choo to Cincinnati for outfielder Drew Stubbs and minor league shortstop Didi Gregorious.
Cleveland would then trade Gregorious, a coveted shortstop prospect, and most likely others to Arizona in exchange for pitchers Trevor Bauer and Tyler Skaggs.
The Indians did not comment on the proposed trade, but a source said Cleveland’s two-time all-star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera was not part of the deal. The Indians and Diamondbacks were in trade talks during last week’s Winter Meetings that reportedly involved Cabrera, Bauer and Skaggs.
There could be other players involved in the trade that was not official as of press time.
If the trade is completed, Choo’s tenure in Cleveland will end after seven-plus seasons. The South Korean-born Choo never reached the elite level many projected for him after he arrived in a trade with Seattle for Ben Broussard during the 2006 season. But he was one of the Indians’ most productive players, hitting .292 with 83 home runs, 372 RBIs and 85 stolen bases in 685 games for Cleveland.
Choo, 30, hit .300 with 20-plus homers, 20 stolen bases and at least 86 RBIs over consecutive seasons (2009-10), but injuries and a DUI arrest hampered his production in 2011. In what was expected to be a big year for Choo in 2012, he batted .283 with 16 homers, 67 RBIs and 21 stolen bases in 155 games.
The Indians were most likely going to lose Choo when he was eligible to become a free agent at the end of the 2013 season. He and agent Scott Boras have turned down multiple multi-year contract extensions with Cleveland, which paid Choo $4.9 million last year on a one-year contract that avoided arbitration.
Choo, who possesses one of the best outfield arms in the game, is expected to play center field for the Reds – a position he has rarely played on the big-league level.
The 28-year-old Stubbs has been Cincinnati’s starter in center the past three years, hitting a combined .241 in three-plus seasons with the Reds. He batted .213 with 14 homers, 40 RBIs and 30 stolen bases in 136 games last year. Stubbs, a first-round draft pick (eighth overall) in 2006, has stolen at least 30 bases in each of the past three seasons, but has posted whopping strikeout totals, leading the National League with 205 in 2011.
The Indians’ real bounty from the potential trade comes in the form of young pitching in right-hander Bauer and left-hander Skaggs, two of the top pitching prospects in Arizona’s organization.
The 21-year-old Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, went 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 22 starts on the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year and made his major league debut, going 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA in four starts for the D-backs.
Skaggs, 21, followed a similar path to Bauer. Also a first-round draft choice in 2011, Skaggs went 9-6 with a 2.87 ERA in 22 starts at the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year, also making his big league debut (1-3, 5.83 ERA in six starts).
Cleveland has been active as of late. Though nothing is official, the Indians have reportedly come to terms on a one-year, $6 million contract with infielder Mark Reynolds. They are also still in talks with outfielder Nick Swisher, but there are numerous other suitors.
Cleveland offered infielder Kevin Youkilis a two-year, $18 million contract, but Tuesday the veteran agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Yankees worth $12 million.
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