Originally written on NESN.com  |  Last updated 12/12/12
Terry Francona is going to enjoy his time in Cleveland if general manager Chris Antonetti keeps fleecing teams like he did on Tuesday. The Indians, Diamondbacks and Reds completed a big, three-way trade that should have Cleveland fans ecstatic, Cincinnati fans pleased and Arizona fans left wondering what exactly just happened. The Tribe received a potential ace in Trevor Bauer, the Reds addressed an area of need in acquiring Shin-Soo Choo, and the D-Backs used their surplus of young pitching to obtain what they hope will be their starting shortstop in Didi Gregorius. (Additional pieces were included, of course, but those are the big dogs.) Now, let’s be clear, it’s always tough to immediately gauge trades that involve prospects, particularly in baseball, where the extent of the farm system makes it easy to overlook some prospects while overvaluing others. But considering Bauer’s potential and the assets that Cleveland gave up to obtain the 21-year-old right-hander, it’s hard not to applaud the effort of Cleveland’s front office. Bauer was drafted third overall just 18 months ago and had since flourished in the D-Backs system. The righty went 12-2 with a 2.42 ERA and a 10.8 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 22 starts between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno last season. He eventually earned himself a big league call-up, and although he sputtered during his 16 1/3 innings in the majors, it’s clear that Bauer has an extremely high ceiling. With an excellent fastball that tops out in the high 90s and a sweeping 12-to-6 curveball that forces hitters to chase in the dirt, Bauer could evolve into a front-end starter in Cleveland, as long as he can limit the free passes and thus keep his pitch count down. We’re talking about a guy who was even taken ahead of Dylan Bundy (2011, fourth overall), who dominated the minors in the Baltimore system last season. And not only did the Indians manage to land a potential No. 1 starter in Bauer, but it didn’t cost them Asdrubal Cabrera, as many assumed it might. Plus, with Bauer not being arbitration eligible until 2016 and being under team control until 2019, Cleveland doesn’t have any financial headaches coming down the pike with the Cal product. Despite Bauer’s high ceiling, Arizona was willing to accept a package of Gregorius, reliever Tony Sipp and first baseman/outfielder Lars Anderson. Gregorius, the main ingredient of that package, was sent to Arizona via Cincinnati. He’s seen as an excellent defender with a great arm, but questions remain about his offensive prowess. Add in the fact that the D-Backs acquired shortstop Cliff Pennington earlier this year and have Chris Owings coming up through the system, and it’s a bit surprising to see them part ways with such a commodity in exchange for another middle infielder. As for the Reds, they simply acted upon their desire to add another outfielder, and they got a good one in Choo. Although he only has one year remaining on his contract, Cincinnati is a contender right now, and the Reds could surely use Choo’s ability to get on base atop an order that already includes Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. He’ll also be a defensive upgrade over Drew Stubbs, who Cincy shipped to Cleveland as part of the trade. Right now, Choo is the headliner. He’s the most proven player to change hands as part of Tuesday’s “blockbuster,” and he’ll be a welcomed addition to Dusty Baker‘s lineup. But in assessing the trade, Antonetti and Francona could someday look back with big smiles across their faces.
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