The Reds desperately needed a replacement for strikeout-prone Drew Stubbs.
They found one in Shin-Soo Choo.
In making the three-way deal with the Indians and the Diamondbacks, the Reds received what they needed: a leadoff hitter/center fielder in Choo.
The Reds sent Stubbs and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to the Indians earlier this week. The Indians sent Gregorius, left-handed reliever Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson to Arizona. The Diamondbacks sent top pitching prospect right-hander Trevor Bauer and relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw to the Indians.
The Reds also received utility man Jason Donald and $3.5 million from the Indians in the deal.
Choo is signed through 2013, and then will test the free-agent pool. That’s fine with the Reds, as they look at Choo as a one-year stopgap.
The plan is to have Billy Hamilton take over in center field in 2014. He hit .311 with a minor-league record 155 stolen bases between Class A Bakersfield and Class AA Pensacola last OVERSET FOLLOWS:year. Hamilton will start the year in AAA, as he makes the switch from shortstop to the outfield.
The Reds looked at free agents center fielders Michael Bourne and Shane Victorino. But Victorino ran for the $39 million, three-year deal the Red Sox offered. Bourne still wants at least a four-year package.
In Choo, the Reds have made a huge upgrade on the offensive side. Choo hit .283 last year with 43 doubles and 16 home runs. He drove in 67 runs, stole 21 base and had an on-base percentage of .373. Choo is a career .289 with a career on-base of .381.
On the other hand, Stubbs hit .213, struck out 166 times and had an on-base percentage of .277.
Stubbs flashed power and speed and had his best year in 2010 when he hit 22 home runs, stole 30 bases and hit .255. But his average dipped to .243 in 2011 and .213 last year. He struck out 205 times in 2011.
Overall, Stubbs could never get the knack of using his speed to get on base in the way of bunting or chopping the ball. Instead, he preferred the power swing, which resulted in striking out more times than the beer venders traveled to the box seats on a hot day.
He also hit .202 with runners in scoring position.
And consider the Reds’ leadoff hitters combined for a .208 average and a .254 on-base percentage last year.
So Choo for one year is a huge plus.
But can he play center field?
Defensively, Choo can’t come close to Stubbs, who is a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder. Choo, who has played only 10 games in center, is rated as an average right fielder with a plus (excellent) arm.
The Reds do have Chris Heisey and Xavier Paul to spell Choo in center.
Choo does have experience in the leadoff slot. He took over there in mid-May and hit .310.
For the Indians, it’s a decent trade for now. How good it gets for the Tribe depends on the future of Bauer, who was the third pick overall in the first round by the Diamondbacks in the 2011 June draft.
Bauer went 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 22 minor league starts between AA Mobile and AAA Reno. He struck out 157 in 130 innings. However, in four starts for the D-backs last year, Bauer went 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA.
The deal comes just a day after the Reds re-signed left fielder Ryan Ludwick, who hit .275 with 26 home runs and 80 RBIs.
Next up on the Reds’ list is smoothing over their bumpy third-base situation. The Reds now have former Indians Donald and free agent signee Jack Hannahan to be their utility players. Both should back up Todd Frazier, who deserves a chance to play every day at third base.
Frazier hit .273 with 19 home runs and 67 RBIs in 422 at-bats last year.
The only glitch is the MLB Network said that the Reds are interested in re-signing Scott Rolen, who is now a free agent and hasn’t decided whether he’ll retire or not. Rolen has been bothered by shoulder and back injuries the last few years and hit only .245 in 294 at-bats last year.
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has to tell Rolen, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and move on.
That’s the final piece to complete a successful Reds’ hot stove season.