The Indians made their first big splash this offseason by moving Choo.
Choo—along with Azdrubal Cabrera—was one of the pieces that Indians management had been shopping for the last month. The success of moving Choo is just the first on-field step for the Indians, who will try to rectify a 94-loss season in 2013.
New manager Terry Francona takes over a Cleveland team that has a solid core up the middle, with Carlos Santana (C), Cabrera (SS) and Michael Brantley (CF).
Additionally, the Choo move brings in players that can help bridge the gap between starters like Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, and closer Chris Perez.
Outside of this core group—and even within it—there is still much work to be done. Here are three things the Indians must do in the wake of trading Shin-Soo Choo.
Redefine the top of the rotation
Bringing Ubaldo Jimenez to Cleveland in 2011 seemed like a no-brainer. He was coming off of his best year—2010, when he hit a career-low 2.88 ERA—and his already low home run percentage was sure to decline away from Coors Field.
Since that time, however, Jimenez has seen his ERA leap as high as 5.40. He has also allowed 32 home runs in 1.5 years with Cleveland, having never let up more than 13 in a year with the Rockies.
The same can be said for Justin Masterson, who looked to have settled in as an established MLB pitcher in 2011. Instead, what was a 3.21 ERA in 2011 turned into a 4.93 ERA the following year.
Indians brass recognized the rotation struggles, suggesting they would only trade Choo or Azdrubal Cabrera for “front line pitching,” wrote CBSSports’ Danny Knobler a month ago.
The Choo deal touches that, bringing top-100 prospect and top-ten pitching prospect, Trevor Bauer to Cleveland.
Now, the time has come to straighten out Masterson and Jimenez or move them, as well, to continue building.
Shop Azdrubal Cabrera
The writing seems to be on the wall for Cabrera, as he enters his seventh season with the Indians. It is not for lack of want, however, he is just one of Cleveland’s only non-prospect trading chips and they are a team looking to build.
Cabrera has good-not-great numbers, hitting .270 with 16 home runs and 68 RBI in 2012. However, with the free agent market in a drought at shortstop, Cabrera could prove to be valuable.
This move does not have to come immediately, however. He has as much value to the Indians as he has anywhere else and replacing him would mean tapping into that weak free agent class.
Possible replacements on the farm could eventually be top-prospect Francisco Lindor. Lindor, however, is just 19 years old and is still a few years away. The Indians would do well to stand by Cabrera as they have, moving him only for major-league-ready talent with immediate impact.
There is an art to the three-team trade and, with this move, Cleveland nailed it. Choo does hit a bit better than Drew Stubbs—coming to Cleveland from the Reds—but Stubbs also missed 20 additional games this season.
The pitching added, too, is the most valuable part of this deal. Still, the Indians are without a definite first baseman or a solid left fielder.
As of now, Santana heads the depth chart at both catcher and first base, while the unproven Ezequiel Carrera is listed in left field.
It might mean waiting out a season in the rebuilding process, building stock for Azdrubal Cabrera and grooming prospects for the future. In any case, someone has to man these positions in the interim. Indian fans could expect to see some smaller, one-year deals in the near future if this is the case.