That day arrived on Tuesday, when the Tribe traded the right fielder to the Reds in a three-team, nine-player exchange. In return, the Indians received a young, heralded and controllable right-handed pitcher in Trevor Bauer and an athletic center fielder in Drew Stubbs.
The Indians also acquired relievers Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from the D-backs. Cleveland sent Choo, infielder Jason Donald and approximately $3.5 million to the Reds and southpaw reliever Tony Sipp and first baseman Lars Anderson to Arizona. Shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius went from Cincinnati to Arizona.
Prospect acquired by Indians
- Trevor Bauer, RHP: Bauer, ranked No. 5 on the MLB's Top 100 Prospects list and No. 1 on the Diamondbacks' Top 20 at the time of the trade, made a beeline to the big leagues, reaching Arizona in his first full season of pro ball. By now his unorthodox delivery and conditioning methods are well known, drawing comparisons to Tim Lincecum, and it's possible his extreme confidence in those methods may have rubbed the D-backs the wrong way. He was very uneven during his time in the big leagues and command issues did hurt him for much of the 2012 season at every level. Pure stuff wise, he was still every bit as tough to hit as when he was coming out of UCLA as the No. 3 overall pick. The undersized right-hander will throw as many as five pitches, from average to plus. He can get his fastball up to 97 mph, but command issues come when he overthrows it. His curve is a plus offering and he also will throw a slider, changeup and splitter. He's not afraid to mix them up and throw them in any count. In his college days, he thrived at getting hitters to chase stuff out of the zone and he'll have to make more adjustments in the zone to have consistent success at the highest level, something most think he'll be able to do. He should head into Spring Training with every chance to win a job in the Indians' rotation.
- Top 20 Prospects: Indians | Diamondbacks
- -- Jonathan Mayo
On the surface, the Indians appear to have received a generous return in parting with Choo, Sipp, Donald and Anderson. Bauer was the third overall selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft and is ranked the No. 5 overall prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said he'll factor into Cleveland's plans at some point in 2013, though whether he'll break Spring Training with the big league team remains to be seen.
"We feel we're getting a young pitcher with a ton of potential," Antonetti said, "a guy who we feel has a chance to pitch at the top of the rotation once he develops and a guy who we had longstanding interest in."
Bauer is widely recognized for his unorthodox throwing mechanics and conditioning routines. D-backs general manager Kevin Towers scoffed at the notion that his club dealt Bauer because of his rumored stubbornness when it comes to modifying those quirky habits. Bauer made four starts for the D-backs last year and posted a 12-2 record with a 2.42 ERA between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno. In 22 Minor League starts, he tallied 157 strikeouts in 130 1/3 innings.
"My gut is this kid is going to have a very good career," Towers said. "My hope is that this is a win-win for both sides with Cleveland and us. He was a tough guy to part with. We've got depth, so that allowed us to make this sort of deal. For him, it's always going to come down to fastball command for him. If the fastball command is there for him with the repertoire of pitches he has, there's no doubt he's going to be a successful big league pitcher."
Stubbs, Cincinnati's first-round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, has built the reputation of a boom-or-bust candidate at the plate who possesses a great deal of speed. The 28-year-old hit .213 with 14 homers and 40 RBIs in 136 contests last year and has swiped 100 bases over the past three seasons. His home run total has decreased each of the past two seasons. Stubbs is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. He won't hit free agency until after the 2015 season.
"He's a great defender in center field," Antonetti said. "He brings an element of speed and power to our team. ... He's one of the best defenders in center field and provides a great deal of athleticism out there."
Stubbs tallied a National League-high 205 strikeouts in 2011. Mark Reynolds, whom the Indians signed to a one-year deal on Sunday, paced the American League with 196 whiffs that year. Still, the two provide the Tribe with some welcomed pop. Reynolds clubbed 23 homers last season, his lowest output since his rookie year in 2007. Catcher Carlos Santana led the Indians with only 18 long balls a year ago.
Choo can become a free agent at the end of the 2013 campaign. Cleveland made repeated attempts at negotiating a long-term pact with the South Korea native, but couldn't make enough headway with agent Scott Boras. Choo earned $4.9 million last season.
Once the clubs settled on terms of the swap, Antonetti reached out to his longtime right fielder and the two spoke for a while about Choo's nearly seven years in Cleveland.
"I expressed my profound appreciation not only for his ability as a player, but for the person that he is and the teammate that he was," Antonetti said. "He's a guy that we will certainly miss -- not only for his on-field contributions, but everything else that he's meant to the organization."
Choo came to Cleveland from Seattle as a toolsy 24-year-old prospect in July 2006 as the focal point of a trade that sent first baseman Ben Broussard to the Mariners. An elbow injury temporarily stunted his progress before he burst onto the scene in 2008, when he batted .309 with 14 homers and 66 RBIs in 94 games. Choo hit .300 in both 2009 and '10, averaging 21 homers and 88 RBIs.
A year later, Choo scuffled at the plate following his arrest for drunk driving, shattered his left thumb on a fastball from Jonathan Sanchez, and submitted his worst season, hitting .259 with just eight homers in 85 contests. As the season wound down, Choo told MLB.com: "What a year. I hate 2011."
He rebounded during the 2012 campaign, finding comfort in the leadoff spot, where he batted .310 with a .389 on-base percentage in 99 games. Overall, Choo hit .283 with 16 homers and 67 RBIs. He'll fill the Reds' vacant spot in the leadoff hole and in center field.
"He fills the one big void that we had," said Reds general manager Walt Jocketty, "and that was a leadoff hitter and someone with the ability to get on base from the top of the order. It's an area of our club that has been lacking the last few years."
The departure of Sipp leaves the Indians with southpaws Nick Hagadone and Scott Barnes in the bullpen, barring any further additions. Albers and Shaw, a pair of hard-throwing righties, figure to compete for spots in the 'pen in Spring Training. Albers, 29, split the 2012 season between Boston and Arizona, logging a 3-1 record with a 2.39 ERA in 63 appearances. A second-round Draft pick in 2008, Shaw, 25, posted a 3.49 ERA in 64 relief outings for Arizona.
The Indians will likely fill Donald's utility role with Mike Aviles, whom they acquired from Toronto on Nov. 3. Donald said he wasn't expecting to be dealt, but can't deny the excitement he felt about joining the NL Central champions.
"There's a definite excitement on my end," Donald said. "I'm thrilled for the opportunity. There are a lot of close relationships that I've built in Cleveland. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the organization and the people in it."
The trade could represent a harbinger of further transactions for the Indians, who now have a vacancy in right field. The club has reportedly been in contact with former Yankee Nick Swisher after missing out on Shane Victorino and Jason Bay, who signed with Boston and Seattle, respectively.