Three-way trade leaves everyone happy, fulfilled

Joe Robbins

Yes, I know the big three-team trade that went down Tuesday involves a whopping nine players; if you want to see all their names, here you go. But with due respect to everyone, only three of the nine players are likely to play big roles in their new teams' futures.

Or three-and-a-half, if you count Drew Stubbs, who's joining the Indians. Stubbs is coming off a terrible season, but had been useful in 2010 and '11. He's under team control for another three seasons, and it's not impossible to imagine him contributing to a winning season at some point. So he's not just filler, but neither was he one of this deal's linchpins.

Each of the three clubs is receiving one linchipin. The Indians: pitching prospect Trevor Bauer. The Reds: star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. The Diamondbacks: shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius.

It's a fascinating deal, because all three of the linchpins are completely different sorts of players.

Trevor Bauer has posted tremendous numbers in the minors and has brilliant tools, but he struggled with the Diamondbacks last season in his brief major-league trial, and he's got the sort of outgoing personality and independent streak that leaves some of his veteran teammates planning a blanket party. Maybe Kirk Gibson felt that way, too. The Indians need arms, and Bauer's a great start.

Shin-Soo Choo is probably a classic rental. With a .381 career on-base percentage (and some power!), he's a huge upgrade over Stubbs in the Reds' lineup. While Choo gives some of that back with his glove, if he's in shape and motivated he shouldn't be a disgrace in center field. Essentially, the Reds are trading six years of Gregorius for one year of Choo, which was palatable only because they've got Zack Cozart in the lineup already.

Didi Gregorius is a scout's guy, and Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers used to be a scout. Check out Towers' quote at the end of this bit (via ESPN.com):

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.

Honestly, I have no idea what in the hell Towers is talking about. I'm not saying he's wrong; if Gregorius didn't remind him of Jeter, Towers wouldn't have said that. I do think it's important to note that in most of the measurable qualities, Didi Gregorious is nothing like Derek Jeter.

Last season, Gregorius was 22 and spent most of the season in Double-A; when Jeter was 22, he was the American League's Rookie of the Year. Last season, in his Double- and Triple-A action, Gregorius hit 41 walks and struck out 80 times in 129 games. In Jeter's last minor-league season, he drew 61 walks and struck out 56 times in 123 games.

One thing I'd forgotten: In the minors, Jeter showed very little power and hit only two home runs in that last full minor-league season. Gregorius actually has the edge here, hitting 14 homers over the last couple of seasons.

Overall, though, there's just no similarity at all between their status as prospects. After his last two minor-league seasons, Jeter was ranked by Baseball America as the fourth- and sixth-best prospect in the game, while Gregorius has never cracked the top 100; last winter, he ranked eighth in the Reds' organization.

I don't mean to denigrate Gregorius. He's a solid prospect, largely because of his defense. He's reportedly got an excellent throwing arm, which might be what reminded Kevin Towers of Jeter. But the off-handed comparison to Jeter tells us little about Gregorius, and (if anything) more about Towers' enthusiasm or (dare I say?) carelessness.

Everybody got what they needed in this deal. Which isn't to say it will look perfectly balanced in a year or two or six. But I'll bet all three GM's woke up really happy Wednesday morning.

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