Reds, Indians and Diamondbacks 3-Way Trade Hinges on Bauer and Gregorius

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The Reds, Indians and Diamondbacks completed a three team trade that broke down in the following way:

Let’s look at this from the perspectives of all three.

For the Reds:

The 29-year-old Choo was back to his normal self in 2012 after a terrible 2011 season that included an injury to his oblique and a DUI arrest. He hits for power, steals bases with a high rate of success, walks, and hits for average. He does strike out a lot, his defense is statistically on the decline, and he’s a free agent at the end of the 2012 season. The Reds have said they’re going to play him in center field but it’s a ridiculous idea. Reds’ right fielder Jay Bruce has experience in center and Choo has played 10 career games at the position in the majors.

Choo is going to want a lot of money on the market next winter, will be in demand and is represented by Scott Boras. The Reds aren’t expecting him to sign a long-term extension, so he’s a one-year rental and a good one. He makes the team better offensively than they were with the free-swinging strikeout machine Stubbs, and as long as Bruce can play an adequate center, the defensive downgrade is negligible—Stubbs wasn’t exactly Paul Blair out there.

Donald is a versatile backup infielder replacing former utilityman Todd Frazier who will take over as the everyday third baseman.

Gregorius was blocked by Zack Cozart at shortstop and the Reds did very well considering they only gave up Stubbs and a minor league shortstop they really didn’t need.

For the Indians:

For better or worse, new Indians manager Terry Francona is having his voice heard by the front office and they’re looking toward the long-term by acquiring a potential frontline starter in Bauer. Albers is known to Francona from their days with the Red Sox. Also known by Francona is Anderson, for whom he had no use with the Red Sox and couldn’t wait to be rid of from the Indians.

Stubbs is a decent journeyman outfielder with pop. He’s going to strike out over 200 times a year and combining him with Mark Reynolds in the Indians lineup will create enough wind power to benefit both the Indians and the Reds by reducing energy costs for the entire state if they choose to use their baseball detriments for a statewide positive.

For the Diamondbacks:

Apparently Bauer’s “attitude” issues were a problem in spite of the Diamondbacks repeatedly saying they weren’t. If a rookie is arriving in the big leagues with a unique motion, a big mouth and he won’t listen to anyone, there’s going to be tension especially when the manager is an old-school type in Kirk Gibson and the pitching coach is a former big league All-Star in Charles Nagy. Teams love a youngster with attitude and feistiness until they need to bridle him and that attitude and feistiness circles back on them and he’s ignoring them. That appears to be what happened with Bauer. In general, very few players—especially high draft choices in whom clubs have invested a lot of money—aren’t going to change until they decide to do so or if they repeatedly fail at the big league level and find themselves trapped in the minors. With Bauer, the “this or that” was about three years away, if it happened at all, so they cut their losses.

There are a couple of ways to look at this: first you can credit the Diamondbacks for accepting that the player they selected 3rd overall in 2011 isn’t a fit for their organization and they moved him before concerns turned into a full-blown disaster. Or they can be criticized because they drafted him and should’ve known all of these things beforehand, calculating the negatives with the positives and perhaps shying away from him for another player.

That they got Gregorius as the centerpiece with the useful lefty reliever Sipp (he can get out both lefties and righties), and Anderson is a very limited return on a former top three pick who, to our knowledge, isn’t hurt.

No one should be surprised considering the warning flags on Bauer. I wrote about it before he was drafted here when he was absurdly compared to Tim Lincecum, and it was discussed in this Yahoo piece. Those same warning flags were basically screaming to stay away from him. I wouldn’t have touched Bauer, but the Diamondbacks drafted him based on talent and it took a year-and-a-half for them to see that that iconoclasm was either not going to change or the package they unwrapped wasn’t worth the time and aggravation it was going to cost to get him to change.

The Indians are banking on that talent, got him for relatively little, and didn’t have to pay the $3.4 million signing bonus Bauer received from the Diamondbacks. Perhaps Francona can get through to him or they’ll just let him be in a way the Diamondbacks wouldn’t. Francona’s far more laid back than the hair-trigger Gibson.

He’s an iffy prospect at this point and it’s clear GM Kevin Towers‘s decision to trade him is an admission that they shouldn’t have drafted him in the first place; they realized that and dumped him before it truly spiraled. What makes the decision to select Bauer even worse is that Towers is often lauded for his player-like sensibilities. He’s not a highly educated outsider who decided to enter a baseball front office. He played in the minors and knows players and the clubhouse dynamic, yet still chose to draft Bauer and look past the obvious.

Towers is a mediocre GM. The Bauer drafting and subsequent trade is a blot on his resume right up there with his ridiculous waiver claim on Randy Myers in 1998 while GM of the Padres—a decision that almost got him fired. With the Diamondbacks, he benefited greatly from a lot of luck and pieces that were in place prior to his hiring and the club won the NL West in 2011 before falling back closer in line to their talent level with a .500 finish in 2012.

Towers compared Gregorius to a “young Derek Jeter.” Having watched video clips of him, Gregorius looks more like a lefty swinging Hanley Ramirez. At first glance (there’s a video clip below), he’s impressive and fills a need at shortstop for the club. If he evolves into that (sans the Ramirez-style attitude that got Bauer shipped out), then it will be a great deal for the Diamondbacks. If not, it was costly on a multitude of levels for Towers, whose rose, as expected, is losing its bloom in the Arizona desert.

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Paul Splittorff’s Yankees Connection Never To Be Broken

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Former Royals pitcher Paul Splittorff died today after a battle with cancer—KansasCity.com Story.

I vaguely remember Splittorff as a pitcher and what I do remember was 1983-84 when he was in the twilight of a good career.

When he was in his prime, he was a very tough and durable lefty; I’m sure you’ll get a better assessment of Splittorff from Bill James and Rob Neyer.

What sticks out in my mind about Splittorff comes from reading about the Yankees of the late-1970s amid the Reggie JacksonBilly Martin soap opera that was in its heyday during the entire 1977 season.

Martin and Jackson had a very public feud about a dozen things that season, but in the playoffs, Martin benched Jackson in game 5 of the ALCS because Jackson had gone 2 for 15 against the lefty Splittorff that season.

The Yankees won the game and advanced to and won the World Series over the Dodgers, but the back-and-forth continued into the Fall Classic as is seen here in this NY Times column (PDF Format).

Martin was, of course, picking on Reggie just for the sake of it and using random statistics to back up a ridiculous decision.

You don’t bench Reggie Jackson in the final game of a playoff series. It was a similarly irascible maneuver as the one Joe Torre pulled with Alex Rodriguez in the 2006 ALCS against the Tigers, but at least Torre didn’t go to the extent of benching A-Rod.

In truth, it wasn’t even a statistically sound call on the part of Martin.

Martin was the best game manager I’ve ever seen, but it’s an open secret as to what kept him from being truly great—the chip on his shoulder the size of Reggie’s ego; and his off-field self-destructiveness.

In a slight nod to Martin, Reggie’s replacement in right field, Paul Blair, ripped Splittorff to the tune of a .441 average for his career in 34 at bats with no power; Mickey Rivers and Cliff Johnson hammered Splittorff as well.

But if Martin wanted to adhere so stringently to stats, he should’ve realized that Blair was no longer the player he was with the Orioles; that Blair was little more than a defensive replacement for the Yankees at that point in his career and should not have been in the lineup of a playoff game instead of Reggie Jackson.

Here are Splittorff’s, er, splits against lefties for his career (courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com):

I Split PA AB R H 2B 3B HR BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB BAbip tOPS+
vs LHB as LHP 2212 2020 229 509 63 23 31 138 241 .252 .303 .352 .655 711 .271 84
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/25/2011.

And here are Reggie’s numbers against Splittorff before 1977:

Year PA AB H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS SH SF IBB HBP GDP missG missYr
1971 5 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 .600 .600 .600 1.200 0 0 0 0 0 0
1972 10 9 5 2 0 1 4 0 2 .556 .556 1.111 1.667 1 0 0 0 0 0
1973 17 16 3 0 0 0 0 1 5 .188 .235 .188 .423 0 0 0 0 0 0
1974 13 13 4 2 0 0 3 0 3 .308 .308 .462 .769 0 0 0 0 0 0
1975 16 15 2 1 0 0 1 1 2 .133 .188 .200 .388 0 0 0 0 1 0
RegSeason 61 58 17 5 0 1 8 2 12 .293 .317 .431 .748 1 0 0 0 1
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/25/2011.

Reggie hit Splittorff well enough to be in the lineup despite his poor showing in 1977; but Martin chose to be a bully against a player he reviled with the one thing he had left to use as a hammer—the lineup card.

Martin’s self-destructive nature naturally extended to the field; had he not won the World Series that year, his antics and treatment of Reggie would’ve been cause to fire him earlier than his first Yankees departure at mid-season 1978.

As you know, he returned again…and again…and again and never achieved the same lofty heights he did in 1977 when the Yankees won because of Reggie’s heroic World Series performance.

In addition to having a fine career as a player and broadcaster, Splittorff will forever be remembered as a pawn in the Reggie-Billy war; one of baseball’s epic battles between player and manager.

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