With the Winter Meetings coming to a close, perhaps one of the best bats on the free agent market is still available.
The former Cincinnati Red, Shin-Soo Choo, has yet to sign a new contract, and several teams still remain in the hunt for his services.
The frontrunners appear to be Cincinnati, Houston, Detroit, and Texas, but the Red Sox could be a dark horse team to swoop in and land Choo.
Coming into the offseason, next to Robinson Cano, Choo was one of the most well-balanced players on the market.
Take a look at his numbers from last season.
- .285 avg.
- .423 OBP
- 21 home runs
- 54 RBI’s
- 20 steals
- 112 walks
- 4 errors
As a leadoff hitter, Choo might be the best in the game (yes, better than Ellsbury). He’s got all the tools teams look for in a leadoff guy, even flashing some speed. Choo snagged 20 bases last season, but the thing that sticks out to me is obviously Choo’s uncanny ability to get on base.
This is what makes his value so high. He has a career OBP of .389, and a lot of that is the result of his excellent plate discipline. He’s really developed into a high IQ type of player who rarely swings at bad pitches. While I wouldn’t consider him a power bat, he certainly has the ability to be a 20+ homer guy any given year.
The interesting thing about Choo, though, is he projects as a corner outfielder, rather than as a center fielder where he played 150 games last year. Posting those types of numbers from the center field position translates into him being one of the best, if not the best center fielder in the game. Those same numbers from a corner outfield spot are not quite as impressive, which could hurt the amount of coin he’s able to pull in.
Impact if signed to Sox
Having already lost one All-Star caliber outfielder, it is possible the Red Sox would consider taking a shot at signing Choo to a long-term deal.
If that were the case, Boston would likely move Shane Victorino to center and let Choo take over in right, leaving Jackie Bradley. Jr out of the starting nine and on the bench as the next man up in the outfield. It would also answer Sox’ fan’s questions about who will hit leadoff, and replace the left-handed bat of Ellsbury.
Choo’s skills would transition nicely to Boston considering his style of play parallels what the Red Sox love to do; take pitches and get on base. Having a guy with a career OBP near .400 hitting in front of the likes of Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, and Mike Napoli is a dream situation, but it’s also a long shot.
If the Red Sox didn’t want to pay up for Jacoby Ellsbury, 30, why would they then offer a long-term deal for upwards of $100 million dollars to a guy who is one year older in Shin-Soo-Choo? The only reason I could think of is that Choo’s best skills (getting on base) are more sustainable than Ellsbury’s best skills which require his speed.
Multiple sources have hinted that Shin-Soo-Choo and Scott Boras will be using Ellsbury’s contract as a guideline to what he is looking for, meaning they are asking for a seven year deal around $130-$150 million.
Not unreasonable, especially when you compare their career stats side-by-side: Choo has a career slash of .288/.389/.465, Ellsbury, .297/.350/.439.
My guess is Choo doesn’t get the seven-year deal he’s looking for, instead I’d bet on a five-year deal worth somewhere around $110 million with a team like the Rangers or Astros, two teams in desperate need of an outfielder.
The Red Sox are a dark horse on Choo, but that’s all they are. I really don’t see him in the cards for Boston at all. If we’ve learned anything about Ben Cherington, long-term deals for players past their prime really isn’t his thing.
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