Indians, Reds and D-Backs complete 3-team trade

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Indians, Reds and D-Backs complete 3-team trade

From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- Shin-Soo Choo didn't want to be part of the Indians' future. So they're moving on without him.Cleveland traded the talented outfielder to the Cincinnati Reds and acquired prized pitching prospect Trevor Bauer from the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday night in a three-team deal involving nine players.The Indians obtained center fielder Drew Stubbs from Cincinnati and received Bauer, the No. 3 pick in the 2011 draft, along with right-handers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from the Diamondbacks."This is a trade that can impact our team not only for 2013, but for the future," Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said. "Three of the players we acquired we will have under control for at least the next three seasons."Cleveland shipped Choo, infielder Jason Donald and about 3.5 million to the Reds, while sending left-handed reliever Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson to Arizona.The Diamondbacks also received shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius from Cincinnati.Choo, primarily a right fielder for Cleveland since he was acquired from Seattle in 2006, will play center and bat leadoff for Cincinnati."It was very difficult giving up home-grown talent, but we think Choo can fill the missing parts in our lineup both offensively and defensively," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement. "He is an exciting player, and we expect him to set the table."Dealing Choo was almost a necessity for the Indians. He was entering the final year of his contract and is eligible for free agency in 2013. The Indians have not been able to work out a deal with agent Scott Boras, who has turned down several extensions in recent years.The 30-year-old Choo, from South Korea, batted .283 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs in 155 games last season. He had been considered a core player for the Indians, who collapsed in August and finished 68-94 -- two games out of last place in the AL Central."It was really tough," Antonetti said of trading Choo. "I talked with Shin-Soo tonight and expressed my profound appreciation for his professionalism. He is always one of the first to arrive for workouts, whether it is spring training or just a game."With plenty of power in the middle of the lineup, Cincinnati has lacked a prototypical leadoff man to get on base consistently in front of sluggers such as Joey Votto, Jay Bruce, Ryan Ludwick and Todd Frazier. Brandon Phillips, who previously batted cleanup at times, was pressed into leadoff duty last season despite a .322 career on-base percentage.Choo can also hit the ball out of the ballpark, but his .381 career OBP fits the bill at the top of the order. He also had 43 doubles and 21 steals this year.The speedy Stubbs has played center exclusively for the Reds, helping them win NL Central titles in 2010 and 2012. He batted .213 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs last season, striking out 166 times in 493 at-bats. He has 100 stolen bases over the past three years, including 30 in 2012.Antonetti said the team hasn't decided where Stubbs will play. Michael Brantley played center for the Indians last season, but has also spent some time in left."In Drew Stubbs, we received a great defensive player who brings an element of speed and power to our lineup," Antonetti said. "We are happy with the job Michael Brantley did for us in center field, but Drew is one of the best out there. He brings a great deal of athleticism to our team."Bauer, one of baseball's top pitching prospects, became the first member of the 2011 draft class to reach the majors and went 1-2 with a 6.06 ERA in four starts for Arizona this year. The 21-year-old right-hander struggled with his control, compiling 13 walks and 17 strikeouts in 16 1-3 innings.Bauer spent most of the season in the minors, going a combined 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA in 22 starts at Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno. He had 157 strikeouts and 61 walks while allowing 107 hits in 130 1-3 innings."We are getting a young pitcher with a ton of potential," Antonetti said. "He can be a top-of-the-rotation guy with development. He is somebody we have been interested in for a long time, since he was at UCLA."Arizona general manager Kevin Towers said he was sorry to part with Bauer, but "we're fortunate to have a lot of pitching depth."The 22-year-old Gregorius, considered a defensive whiz, spent last season with Double-A Pensacola and Triple-A Louisville before appearing in eight games for the Reds. He hit a combined .265 with seven homers and 54 RBIs in 129 minor league games, adding 21 doubles and 11 triples while scoring 70 runs.The Diamondbacks have been looking for a shortstop to replace Stephen Drew, traded to Oakland in August after returning from a serious ankle injury. They were thought to be interested in Indians All-Star Asdrubal Cabrera, though Towers wouldn't comment on that.Towers said Gregorius reminds him "of a young Derek Jeter." Gregorius will go to spring camp and compete for the starting job in the big leagues.Arizona completed a 15.5 million, two-year contract with right-hander Brandon McCarthy on Tuesday and also acquired reliever Heath Bell from Miami earlier this offseason. Towers said those additions make it "highly unlikely" the team will trade slugger Justin Upton.

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

WASHINGTON – Cubs president Theo Epstein watched the Washington Nationals run wild on his iPad on Tuesday while visiting the Class-A Myrtle Beach affiliate. As Epstein did some work in his hotel room later that night, he got a text message from general manager Jed Hoyer alerting him to Miguel Montero’s explosive comments.  

Epstein’s management style is to not overreact or worry about the next day’s headlines. He generally believes in second chances, tries to keep an open mind and looks at the problem from every angle, occasionally to the point of paralysis by analysis.

But Epstein said it took “probably 10 seconds” before he realized the Cubs needed to designate Montero for assignment after the veteran catcher pointed the finger at Jake Arrieta – a Cy Young Award-winning, All-Star pitcher – for Washington’s seven stolen bases.    

“It screamed out as something that we should do,” Epstein said.     

As Montero’s rant caught fire on Twitter, Epstein called Hoyer and spoke to Montero on the phone, but he wanted to sleep on it and consult with some players before making Wednesday’s final decision, which could cost approximately $7 million. Epstein could not envision this as a team-building moment after Montero’s mea culpa and clearing the air with Arrieta.

“That was not my read on it, knowing the dynamics, present and past,” Epstein said. “This was not something that we would benefit from – trying to pursue a path of putting it all back together again.”

The Cubs pursued Aroldis Chapman after the New York Yankees closer began last season serving a 30-game suspension under Major League Baseball’s domestic-violence policy. The Cubs cautiously didn’t judge or unconditionally support Addison Russell after a third-party abuse accusation on social media triggered an MLB investigation this month. The Cubs tolerated Tommy La Stella’s refusal to report to Triple-A Iowa last summer, allowing him to chill out at home in New Jersey.

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But Montero doesn’t have a 100-mph fastball. Montero isn’t an All-Star shortstop. Montero isn’t being preserved for one hypothetical pinch-hit at-bat in the playoffs. The Cubs are hovering around .500 now – no longer the World Series favorite – and all those variables become part of the calculus.   

“I just came to the conclusion that now more than ever we really need to be a team,” Epstein said. “This was an example of someone being a bad teammate publicly, and that we’d be better off moving on and not standing for it, because we do hold our players to a higher standard than that.

“In our role as the front office, we can’t always be in the clubhouse and push the right buttons to help everyone come together as a team. But we certainly are in a position – when we see something that could fracture the group – to try to fix the situation and remove that issue.

“Miggy’s not to blame at all for the issues that we have as a team right now. He should not be a scapegoat for what’s going on. This was just an example of someone publicly not being a good teammate and making comments that weren’t accountable and weren’t supportive and weren’t in furtherance of the team concept. And we felt we had to act on it.”

There is a chicken-or-the-egg mystery to clubhouse cohesion. But Montero probably would have had a longer fuse – and the bosses would have had a longer leash – if the Cubs were 24 games above .500 the way they were at this time last year. Montero could also get away with a lot more when he was a two-time All-Star for the Arizona Diamondbacks and playing in a sleepy market. 

“Had we been in a spot where this group had already formed its identity and was clicking on all cylinders,” Epstein said, “and had already overcome adversity together and come together completely as a team and we’re rolling in those respects, maybe it could have been handled differently by the group without sort of action from above.

“But I think you have to factor in where the team is and what the team needs and how close we are to reaching our ideal and how close we are to living up to all the values that we have as an organization.”

The Cubs Way isn’t exactly making it up as they go along. But there are always double standards and rationalizations in a bottom-line business. It sounds like Epstein did his due diligence without giving it a second thought: Montero wasn’t worth the trouble anymore. 

“There aren’t that many opportunities for people out of uniform to positively impact the group or nudge it in the right direction,” Epstein said, “or underscore the importance of team or emphasize the values that we try to embody as a group.

“This was one that made sense, given the history, the group dynamics, all the factors involved.”

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

The Bears believe Leonard Floyd will make the leap from being a promising rookie to a breakout second-year player, the kind who can be a centerpiece of a defense as soon as this fall.  

The Bears in 2016 totaled 37 sacks —12th in the NFL — despite dealing with a rash of injuries and not having a standout player in terms of getting to the quarterback. Willie Young led the team with 7 1/2 sacks, which tied him for 31st in the league last year, while Floyd and Akiem Hicks each had seven. 

Sixteen players recorded double-digit sacks last year. That’s not the end-all benchmark for Floyd in 2017, but for a former top-10 pick with elite skills and, as his coaches and teammate said, the right mentality, it’s not out of the question. 

“With most players, you go from your freshman year to sophomore or rookie to second year, … it slows down, they understand it, they're not thinking, they're reacting,” coach John Fox said. “And so I'd expect that and I've seen that already even in the off-season.”

Floyd, earlier this month, talked about how much more comfortable he feels after a full year of practicing and playing at the NFL level. 

“Everything was just fast when I got here last year,” Floyd said. “This year’s it’s way slower and I feel like I’m doing pretty good this year.”

There are two issues with Floyd that won’t go away until he proves they’re not problems in the regular season, though: His weight and his concussions. 

The weight issue is one Floyd has heard for a while, joking with reporters during veteran minicamp that he was surprised it wasn’t the first thing he was asked during his session with the media. He said he “definitely gained some weight” without revealing how much he’s put on, only saying he feels like he’s in much better shape now than he was as a rookie.

“It’s like night and day compared to last year,” Floyd said. 

The concessions are a far more serious — and scary — issue given it took Floyd two months to fully recover from the second concussion he suffered in 2016. 

The Bears believe Floyd’s concussion issues are correctable, though, given they were the product of poor tackling form made worse by collisions with Hicks. The crown of Floyd’s helmet was too low, so he and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio worked with tackling dummies and sled machines in an effort to fix that issue. 

The hope is that Floyd can stay healthy and marry his skills with a better knowledge of the game to put together a breakout year in 2017. His teammates sounded confident during the offseason program that everything was falling into place for the former ninth overall pick. 

“He’s a great competitor,” Hicks said. “Great energy, fast, athletic, he’s everything you want in an outside linebacker, right? Nonstop motor — I can give you all the cliche terms, but I just feel like as far as the defensive line or an outside linebacker, another year under his belt is only going to make him better.”

Added linebacker Jerrell Freeman: “That guy is going to be good for a while.”