Trade Gives Reds the Lead-off Man they were Missing
Last year, the Cincinnati Reds finished 97-65, winning their second NL Central Crown in three years. They outscored their opponents by exactly half a run per game and featured four starters with at least 200 innings pitched and an ERA+ over 110.
So it might be hard to find fault with their current model – but alas, they scored only 669 runs, putting them at the middle of the pack in the National League. This is despite playing at Great America Ballpark, which is a well-known launching pad.
Much of this could be attributed to two factors. One, of course, is the 2-month absence of mega-star first baseman Joey Votto, who was the National League’s best player in the first half. The other was the absence of a reliable table-setter.
The hodgepodge of players that Reds manager Dusty Baker inserted into the #1 spot in the order – a spot that sees more plate appearances than any other – managed some pretty atrocious numbers, including a meager .254 on-base percentage and a grand total of 10 stolen bases.
Yesterday, that all changed. The Reds acquired outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the Cleveland Indians in a 3-way deal that sent top-tier pitching prospect Trevor Bauer along with outfielder Drew Stubbs and relievers Matt Albers & Bryan Shaw to the Indians, with the Arizona Diamondbacks receiving shortstop Didi Gregorius, reliever Tony Sipp, and first baseman Lars Anderson. Infielder Jason Donald also went to the Reds.
The Reds were neither the big winners nor the big losers in this trade. They sacrificed the least and received just one year out of the primary Major Leaguer involved. But for 2013, Shin-Soo Choo gives the Reds the missing piece they were looking for.
The 30-year old South Korean has a career on-base percentage of .381. He’ll add some pop to the top of the order, averaging 19 home runs and 38 doubles per 162 games for his career. He even adds a speed element that the lead-off spot was missing, averaging 20 stolen bases at a 77% success rate.
The one question is whether or not Choo – generally a right fielder for all but a handful of his career games – can adjust to center field, with Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce firmly entrenched in the corner outfield spots.
In either case, Joey Votto will find himself with a whole lot more ducks on the pond this season, and the Reds pitching will appreciate the extra support.