Reds get Choo, Donald in three-team trade
Cincy sends Stubbs to Tribe; Gregorius lands with D-backs
At the outset of the offseason, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty embarked on a journey to locate a leadoff hitter. On Tuesday, he got his guy.
Cincinnati acquired outfielder Shin-Soo Choo from the Indians as part of a three-team, nine-player exchange that also included the D-backs.
In the deal, the Reds also landed infielder Jason Donald and $3.5 million from Cleveland. In return, they sent center fielder Drew Stubbs to the Tribe and well-regarded shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to Arizona.
Cincinnati's leadoff men combined for a .208 average and .254 on-base percentage in 2012. The Reds missed out on Ben Revere, whom the Twins dealt to the Phillies; Angel Pagan, who re-signed with the Giants; and Shane Victorino, who latched on with the Red Sox.
The Indians moved Choo into the leadoff hole in mid-May after he labored through the first portion of the 2012 season. In 99 games out of the No. 1 spot, Choo batted .310 with a .389 on-base percentage.
"He fills the one big void that we had," Jocketty told MLB.com, "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."
Choo, who can become a free agent at the end of the 2013 campaign, will shift from right field to center, despite playing just 10 games at the position during his eight-year career. The lack of experience doesn't concern the Reds, who plan to play the 30-year-old between Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce in Great American Ball Park's outfield.
"We think he's a great athlete, and he still runs well from side to side, and we think that in our ballpark, he'll do fine in center field," Jocketty said.
Top prospect and center fielder Billy Hamilton could reach the Majors by the end of 2013 or early '14, so Choo could serve as a stopgap. Hamilton batted .311 with 155 stolen bases in 132 games between Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Pensacola in '12.
"It works well into our long-range plan," Jocketty said. "We have Choo for this year, and we'll see what happens. We know that Hamilton should be ready by  to play center field and hit leadoff."
Donald could factor into the club's plans as a utility player, having experience at second base, shortstop, third base and in the outfield. He batted just .202 in 43 games in 2012, but hit .318 in 39 contests in '11.
"One of the first thoughts that crossed my mind was, 'They went to the playoffs last year,'" Donald told MLB.com. "The Reds have a lot of very talented players over there. They have good pitching and some forces in the middle of the lineup. It's definitely a good time to be coming into that organization and that team. It's an organization with a lot of history, and I'm excited to be a part of it."
In parting with Stubbs, the Reds are saying goodbye to their center fielder for the last three-plus seasons and the organization's first-round selection in the 2006 First-Year Player Draft. Stubbs' batting average, on-base and slugging percentages, home runs and RBI totals dipped each of the last two years. Jocketty thinks a change of scenery could serve the 28-year-old well.
"Drew is a great young man, and he really helped contribute to our club the last few years," Jocketty said. "He does everything well. Maybe if he's in a new environment and hears different voices, he'll get back on track offensively, because he still has a chance to be a very good player."
Gregorius was Cincinnati's No. 5 prospect, according to MLB.com. The 22-year-old logged a .278 average in 81 games for Double-A Pensacola in 2012 before he earned a promotion to Triple-A Louisville, for whom he batted .243 in 48 games. He joined the Reds when rosters expanded in September, and notched six singles in 20 at-bats.
Still, with shortstop Zack Cozart under the club's control for at least another five seasons, Gregorius became expendable.
"I've always really liked Didi and liked the way he goes about playing the game," Jocketty said. "It was difficult, but we have Zack Cozart as our shortstop for the next five years, at least, and it was tough for Didi to crack the lineup."