Choo trade gives Reds a step up in the NL Central

Choo trade gives Reds a step up in the NL Central
December 12, 2012, 7:53 pm
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While the Cubs continue to make minor moves this offseason, teams around them are pulling off big deals, from the Royals-Rays trade to the Zack Greinke signing in L.A.

READ: Cubs' offseason moves just beginning

But while those moves don't necessarily affect the Cubs, Tuesday night's trade directly impacts Theo Epstein's team.

In a three-way trade, the Reds acquired outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians, in addition to utility infielder Jason Donald. All they had to give up was outfielder Drew Stubbs (who went to Cleveland) and young Netherlands shortstop Didi Gregorius (who went to Arizona).

READ: The price the Cubs paid for Garza

Gregorius turns 23 on Feb. 18 and made his MLB debut in 2012, but boasts an underwhelming .271.323.376 batting line in his minor-league career, spanning more than 1,900 plate appearances. He has never shown much power (20 homers) or speed (40 stolen bases in 70 tries) and has not earned national recognition as a top prospect.

READ: The rundown on the Cubs' minor-league staff

Stubbs, 28, burst onto the MLB scene in 2010 with 22 homers and 30 stolen bases to go along with 77 RBI and 91 runs, but has seen his average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage drop in two straight seasons since, eventually falling out of favor in Cincinnati. The Reds were desperately looking for a leadoff man most of last season after Stubbs couldn't hang on to the gig, bogged down by a lofty strikeout total (588 in 1,791 at-bats, including a league-leading 205 in '11) and a low OBP (.277 in '12).

Choo, meanwhile, is a good get for the reigning NL Central division winners. The South Korean outfielder doesn't turn 31 until right around the 2013 All-Star break, so he's still in the midst of his prime. After three straight seasons with at least a .300 AVG and .883 OPS from 2008-10, injuries have slowed him a bit since, and he was arrested in May 2011 for a DUI.

But the outfielder spent much of his time in Cleveland as the Indians' No. 3 hitter and provides a nice balance of skills, from speed (76 steals since '09), power (80 homers since '08) and an ability to get on base (.381 career OBP). He stayed on the field for almost all of '12, posting a .283.373.441 line with 16 homers, 67 RBI and 88 runs.

Choo's patience may earn him the leadoff role on the Reds, setting the table for the likes of Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. But no matter where he hits in the order, Choo is a major step up from Stubbs in the outfield.

The only issue is -- who plays center in Cincinnati? Stubbs was roughly average as a centerfielder, while Choo has been slightly below average in right field, so a switch to center would not be beneficial. Bruce is the other option, but he hasn't exactly played at a Gold Glove level in right for the Reds to date.

Choo is a free agent after the 2013 season and the Reds may not have the resources to retain his services, so this is likely only a one-year move. But the Reds have to be favorites to repeat in the NL Central, and if the Aroldis Chapman experiment as a starter goes well, they could garner some good World Series odds in Vegas.