CLEVELAND — The Indians did a lot of talking during last week’s Winter Meetings in Nashville, Tenn. On Tuesday, their actions spoke louder than words.
In a three-team, nine-player trade that broke Tuesday night, Cleveland dealt right fielder Shin-Soo Choo, infielder Jason Donald and around $3.5 million to the Reds for outfielder Drew Stubbs. Cleveland’s Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson were shipped to Arizona, with the Indians acquiring prized starting pitcher prospect Trevor Bauer and relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from the Diamondbacks. Arizona also acquired shortstop prospect Didi Gregorious from the Reds.
“It was very difficult to give up the players we traded,” Cleveland general manager Chris Antonetti said. “But with this trade, we feel we have acquired four players that will not only impact our 2013 team but our team moving forward.”
The gem of the deal for the Indians is Bauer, the third overall pick in the 2011 draft. The 21-year-old right-hander made his major league debut last year and is expected to compete for a job in Cleveland’s rotation in 2013.
Bauer, a UCLA product, went 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 22 starts on the Double-A and Triple-A levels last year, going 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA in four starts for the Diamondbacks.
“We feel like we’re getting a young pitcher with a ton of potential,” Antonetti said. “He’s a guy that we feel can pitch at the top of the rotation as he develops.
“He has some development left to do. We do expect him to impact our team in 2013. He’s certainly a guy that’s not too far away from making an impact.”
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.
Choo’s tenure in Cleveland ends 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.
“He is a player that is going to be missed,” Antonetti said of Choo, the Indians’ starting right fielder since 2009.
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 Reds will have to negotiate an extension with Choo or attempt to re-sign him at the end of next season. Cleveland, meanwhile, has their acquired players under control for multiple years.
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.
Antonetti would not say whether it would be Michael Brantley or Stubbs in center next year, but both can play the position.
The Indians added proven depth to their bullpen, one of the team’s strengths last season. In Shaw and Albers, Cleveland has acquired experienced hard-throwing relievers.
Shaw, 25, posted a 3.49 ERA in 64 games of his first full season in the big leagues last year, while the 29-year-old Albers, a seven-year veteran, had his best season in 2012, going a combined 3-1 with a 2.39 ERA in 63 appearances for Boston and Arizona.
The Indians held onto two-time all-star shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who has been named often in potential trade scenarios.
“He’s still our shortstop,” Antonetti said. “Nothing’s changed in regard to any of our players. If teams are interested in players on our roster, we will listen.”
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. Swisher would fill the void in right field now that Choo is gone.
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.