Our long lead-off nightmare is over.

Photo: Cincinnati Enquirer

According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Reds GM Walt Jocketty has traded Drew Stubbs and Didi Gregorius for Cleveland outfielder Shin Soo Choo and utility IF Jason Donald [update: plus $3.5 million to the Reds].

Here’s the most important thing you need to know about the Reds’ new acquisition:


That’s Choo’s record in 461 plate appearances batting lead-off for Cleveland, mostly last year. It closely tracks his career numbers overall: .289/.381/.465.

I didn’t double-check his math, but John Fay calculates that Choo’s higher OBP will result in reaching base 105 times more than Reds lead-off hitters accomplished in 2012. JoeyMVP smiles at that statistic. The Reds lead-off hitters managed .208/.254/.327 last season. (Mike Leake’s OBP was .309.)

Biography Shin Soo Choo is 30 years old. He bats and throws left-handed. He’s from Pusan, South Korea and was signed by the Seattle Mariners in August, 2000. In July 2006, he was traded to Cleveland for Ben Broussard. Choo led the South Korean team to the gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games, earning himself and all his teammates an exemption from their nation’s mandatory military service requirement.

Contract Status: Choo will be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season. Last year, in his second year of arbitration he earned $4.6 million.  Matt Schwartz at MLBTR estimates that Choo will earn $7.9 million via arbitration this year. Drew Stubbs was estimated to make $2.9 million. Choo’s agent is Scott Boras.

Power Stats: Excluding his injury shortened 2011 season, Choo has averaged 19 home runs and 37 doubles since 2009.  Last season he was 10th in all of baseball with 43 doubles. Choo’s career ISO (isolated power, the difference between his AVG and SLG) is .176. MLB average ISO is .151. Choo gives the Reds another powerful left-handed bat in the lineup. And batting first, there’s no risk of the streams crossing with any other Reds LH hitter.

Stolen bases: Again, excluding 2011, Choo has averaged 21 SB and 5 CS since 2009.

Plate Discipline: Shin Soo Choo’s walk-rate is 11.4% – well above the league average of 8.4%. He sees an average of 3.97 pitches per plate appearance with the MLB average being 3.79 PPA.

Clutchiness: Choo’s hitting with RISP: .289/.374/.466.  This one makes Marty happy, but the rest of you should ignore it.

Yes, there are plenty of legitimate concerns. Choo will probably only be with the Reds for one year (but what a wonderful contract year it could be). He hasn’t really played much CF in the past half decade and he may have lost a step on defense at that. A few balls that Drew Stubbs would have caught in the alley will go for doubles. Choo’s once-feared arm may have dropped off a bit last year. What now if Zack Cozart gets hurt?

But for now, just think of that sweet, sweet OBP batting first and getting the most AB for your Cincinnati Reds.


Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 140 Comments

  1. I still see WJ having chips to play if he so chooses. Hoover and Simon have to be strong candidates for the 25 man roster out of the bullpen and Masset should be healthy so he would be another addition to the 25 man roster out of the bullpen. The bullpen is simply stocked with proven, quality pitchers (even if Chapman starts):


    If Chapman closes, then one of those relievers must go. The starting pitching is also stocked with proven, quality pitchers (even if Chapman closes):


    If Chapman starts, then one of those starters must go. This year, the pitching prospects are starting to line up at AAA:


    De La Rosa

    Spring training can’t get here soon enough.

  2. The Dbacks GM needs fired. I love Gregorious as much as the next guy, but calling him the next Derek Jeter is stupid.

  3. I haven’t read all the comments (too many! :))

    I like this deal but I think we are kidding ourselves if we think Choo can play CF. (In fact, one commentator I read said the Reds are “delusional” if they think that.) So…..the Reds get a huge gain on offense and a huge lose on defense.

  4. @MrRedlegs3900:

    Thanks for the memory!

  5. @pinson343:

    But Choo is even worse in RF than he is in CF.

  6. @per14: Yeah, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jay Bruce heads to CF in spring training. Also I expect Choo to practice in LF in spring training, in case anything happens to Ludwick long term or for late innings. Chris Heisey presumably wins big as a late inning defensive replacement, a role Stubbs previously blocked him from.

    @Hank Aarons Teammate: Yep – Bauer rubbed the DBacks the wrong way with his training routine and refusing to listen to the catcher. Apparently they thought he’d change his mind, come around, and listen to them, but he didn’t. Instead they got frustrated and traded him. Some of the stuff I read aboout him, about his bad attitude, reminds me of what I used to hear about Mat Latos from Padres fans.

  7. Not sure why everyone is concerned about Scott Boras here, as he has minimal effect except on whatever pricetag he submits in arbitration. Choo’s est. arbitration number is $7.9MM – that’s why Cle included cash to the Reds in the deal. Beyond that, Boras is no issue to the Reds until Choo is a FA, and most believe that he won’t be here in 1 year with Hamilton taking over the position. Therefore, who cares about Boras. . .

  8. Let’s not worry about the OF defense. Look at the Cardinals, they have a decent CF in Jay, but Beltran is suspect and Holliday is probably the worst LF defensively in the game.

    If I can compare something we have that is worrying and find it better than what the WLBs have, I consider it a win.

  9. I do wonder how Scott Boras feels about his client potentially being asked to play CF – does that help or hurt his free agent value?

  10. I have to now wonder about signing Ludwick. Take that 15M back, combine that with the 3.5M in this deal, and make a 1 one, 15M offer to Bourn. And yes I know that sounds a little far-fetched, but Bourn allegedly would be interested in that type of deal if the calendar turns and he is still unsigned.

  11. Jocketty did what the team needed. A one year player to fill center field until Hamilton is ready. The team just couldn’t continue on with Stubbs and his limitations. One player can really make a difference in a lineup that just got stronger. This should help Phillips who can focus on the hitting in the two spot most of the year. Jocketty still needs to acquire some players to strenghten the bench

  12. Reds fan in Cleveland, so I have seen a fair bit of Choo. He still has a very strong arm, but he takes the most bizarre routes to the ball you have ever seen. He also loses what seems like an uncommon number of balls in the sun/lights, and I do not know how the change in parks might affect that. Still like the trade, but I hope Bruce gets a chance to play some CF, at least as a backup plan.

  13. New thread on Opening Day roster/line-up.

  14. @per14: Yes, it’s a huge gain/loss in offense/defense. But a huge defensive loss is something I’ll take for a 100 point increase in OBP. That’s a lot of runs.

  15. My hat’s off to Mr. Steve Mancuso who dared to dream about landing Choo. I assumed that the Reds would have to part with pitching, either from the MLB roster or a quality minor league prospect.

    The price for a one year rental was reasonable. My thoughts:

    * Stubbs could finally turn the corner, but he is no longer a youngster. His plate discipline just seems to get worse and worse with each passing year. What would a bounce back year from Stubbs look like?

    * Didi is a legit MLB defensive SS, but will he ever be able to hit MLB pitching.

    * Any concerns about giving up those two should be mitigated by the likelihood that neither Stubbs or Didi will ever be an above average, if not average, hitter.

    * Love the Reds FINALLY having a great OBP guy at the top of the lineup.

    * Love the Indians GM noting Choo’s good work ethic.

    * Love having 3 legit LH batters in the lineup.

    * Like Donald’s versatility, with experience at 2B, SS, 3B, and the OF.

    * Don’t know about Donald’s defense, but Wilson Valdez was far from spectacular, and Valdez gave you nothing at the plate.

    * Like the Rosenthal comment that the $3.5 Million to the Reds enables them to acquire a good 4 OF’r.

    * Hate to open this can of worms, but do the Reds keep Rolen now? He gives you quality defense, a veteran presence, quality AB’s, and some pop in his bat. The bench could be: Rolen, Donald, Heisey, that 4th OF’r, and Meso. Heisey gives you a competent backup in CF and in the corners. We could be saying goodbye to Xavier Paul, who had a career year last year for the Reds. Was it a one time thing for him? Do you need more pop out of a lefty bench player? Either way, you need a lefty on your bench.

    It’s a great day to be a Reds fan. Can the season start soon enough?

  16. @earmbrister: You have to keep Paul under your scenario, simply to have a LH bat off the bench.

  17. I think the Indians and the Reds both just won big, and mostly at the expense of AZ. For the Reds, this deal makes their offense so much better, and they really only gave up a glove-first prospect who was already blocked.

    The Indians turned one year of Choo and some spare parts (like a weak hitting 1b) into 3 years of Stubbs, 6 years of Trevor Bauer, and 2 decent relievers. That’s a crazy haul. I think they will be able to help Stubbs more than Dusty could, and if Trevor Bauer even turns into a sold 3rd or 4th starter, they did great.

    The Dbacks get Gregorious, who their GM compared to a young Derek Jeter. That’s just crazy talk. Apparently they didn’t like Bauer’s attitude, but to cut bait like that seems very shortsighted. I’m sure he wasn’t great to be around, but at the same time, he’s 22, one year out from being drafted, and a millionaire. A bit of an attitude is hardly surprising. See Bailey, Homer.

    Seems like someone of his talent is worth giving a little time to mature. Maybe not if you get the next Jeter for him though!

  18. […] Redleg Nation is happy the Reds acquired an elite leadoff hitter in Shin-Soo Choo. […]

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.


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