All trades are tough to judge at the time they happen, but three-team trades are especially tough to judge. There are so many variables in play that it’s almost impossible to determine a winner.
But sometimes, it’s easy to determine a loser.
The Cincinnati Reds, Arizona Diamondbacks and Cleveland Indians hammered out a three-team trade on Tuesday sending Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to Cincinnati in exchange for Reds center fielder Drew Stubbs. The Reds are expected to use Choo in center field.
But there was more to the deal. In addition to Choo, the Reds got utility infielder Jason Donald from the Indians. The Indians got Stubbs from the Reds along with pitching prospect Trevor Bauer and major league relievers Bryan Shaw and Matt Albers from the Diamondbacks. The Diamondbacks got shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius from the Reds and major league reliever Tony Sipp and minor league first baseman Lars Anderson from the Indians.
From the Reds and Indians standpoint, the trade makes complete sense.
The Reds needed a top-of-the-order hitter, and Choo, with his career .381 on-base percentage, fills that need. The Reds are making the assumption that he can play center field, and while it’s certain he won’t be as good defensively as Stubbs was, the Reds are banking on the fact that the whole package will be a better fit for their contending needs.
The Indians are in the process of rebuilding, and are attempting to trade their assets for valuable pieces of their next successful team. Choo was perhaps their best player, but by turning him into a young pitcher like Trevor Bauer, the Indians have set themselves up nicely for the future.
But what are the Diamondbacks doing?
Bauer was the third overall pick in the 2011 draft, and many scouts liked him better at the time than fellow UCLA teammate (and first overall pick) Gerrit Cole. Since then, Bauer’s control issues and unique preperation methods have soured him in the minds of the Diamondbacks to the point that they sold low on a truly talented arm.
The biggest piece that the Diamondbacks received back was Gregorius, who is, at best, a defense-first shortstop, who could very well turn into a defense-only shortstop. He has virtually no power and has almost no plate discipline, meaning that if he wants to have any offensive value whatsoever, he almost has to hit .300. Without doing so, all of his value comes from his glove.
That fact still makes him a usable piece for the Diamondbacks, and perhaps their starting shortstop in 2013, but not a valuable enough piece to have traded for Trevor Bauer.
The Reds plan to use Choo in center may not work, but it’s a good plan. Bauer may not work out, but having him is a good plan. The Diamondbacks trading Bauer for for a no-offensive shortstop is not a good plan.