Applaud Antonetti for Bauer Trade, Recent Moves and Roster Flexibility
By Mike Brandyberry
It’s time to give Chris Antonetti some credit.
The Indians General Manager has deservedly received his fair share of criticism for the Tribe’s struggles over the last few seasons, but after several decisions that resulted in disappointment, he seems to have made a very positive move Tuesday evening.
“We need to do a better job of shaping our roster,” Antonetti said at his season end press conference in October. “There were some decisions we made last year that didn’t turn out the way that we had hoped. We certainly need to reinvent our process that led to those decisions.”
Tuesday’s three-way trade that sent Shin-Soo Choo and Jason Donald to the Cincinnati Reds and Tony Sipp and Lars Anderson to the Arizona Diamondbacks isn’t the only move to change the shape of the roster, but it is the biggest. The Indians received Drew Stubbs in return from Cincinnati and Trevor Bauer, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw from Arizona.
“We think the four players we’ve acquired will not only impact the 2013 season at the major league level, but will impact us for years to come,” Antonetti said.
The 21-year old Bauer is certainly the marquee acquisition for the Tribe in the trade. He was the third overall selection in the 2011 MLB Amateur Draft from UCLA and the Golden Spikes Award winner—college baseball’s equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. Bauer catapulted through the Diamondbacks’ minor league organization to make his Major League debut on June 28, but was 1-2, with a 6.06 ERA in four starts. Both before and after his big league debut, Bauer shined in the minor leagues going 12-2, with a 2.42 ERA between Double-A and Triple-A in 2012.
He was ranked the #9 prospect in all of baseball by Baseball American before the beginning of the 2012 season and is the kind of top flight arm the Indians have not had in their system, since at least Drew Pomeranz. A week ago rumors swirled that Antonetti was discussing trade possibilities for Bauer, with Asdrubal Cabrera—the Tribe’s top trade piece—as the centerpiece of the deal. Tuesday, Antonetti acquired the Major League-ready starting pitcher without dealing their top trade piece.
Granted, the Indians did acquire Stubbs—a free-swinging, right-handed hitting center fielder—from Cincinnati coming off his worst year. Stubbs, combined with the Tribe’s Sunday free agent signing of Mark Reynolds, could provide enough wind energy to put the turbine atop Progressive Field out of business. Each player led the league in strikeouts in 2011.
Despite hitting only .213, with 14 home runs and 40 runs batted in in 2012, Stubbs is projected to make $2.9 million in salary arbitration this winter. Once Cincinnati acquired Choo, Stubbs wouldn’t fit in their outfield with Jay Bruce and Ryan Ludwick. It’s likely the Reds insisted Cleveland take Stubbs in order to get Didi Gregorius in the trade.
Antonetti needed Gregorius to immediately flip him to Arizona as the piece to get Bauer. Diamondbacks General Manager Kevin Towers has compared Gregorius favorably to Derek Jeter, while other scouts and GM’s wonder if he can hit enough to warrant an everyday position.
Meanwhile, Antonetti shipped Sipp and Anderson to Arizona to help bring right-handed relief pitchers Albers and Shaw to the Tribe bullpen. Albers, split the 2012 season between the Boston Red Sox and Arizona, going a combined 3-1 with a 2.39ERA in 63 relief appearances. He is projected to make $1.7 million in salary arbitration this winter. Shaw spent most of the 2012 season in the Arizona bullpen where he went 1-6 with 2 saves and a 3.49ERA in 64 relief appearances.
Their acquisitions are a clear sign that Antonetti is not done remaking his roster. Cleveland now has an abundance of right-handed relief pitching with Albers, Shaw, Chris Perez, Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Cody Allen. There isn’t enough room for six, one-inning, relief pitchers to be in a bullpen. Certainly any of them could be moved with other players to help solidify the left side of the bullpen or other holes on the team.
It is also believed the Indians are still pursuing free agent outfielder, Nick Swisher and could be in the market for another starting pitcher. Antonetti’s wheeling and dealing has cut the Tribe’s current projected Opening Day salary to around $56 million. The normally tight-fisted Indians have excess cash to upgrade the roster.
While it may be sad to see Choo leave Cleveland after six seasons, the Tribe would have lost him at season’s end when he and his agent, Scott Boras, hit the free agent market. Antonetti’s ability to trade his one future year of production and three minor parts for a top pitching prospect, bullpen depth and the flexibility to make future deals should be applauded.
Photo: Associated Press