Shin-Soo Choo Signing Reflects Rangers’ Win-Now Mentality and Other Thoughts on Outfielder’s New Deal

Shin-Soo ChooThe Rangers have made clear this offseason that they’re prepared to do — and spend — whatever it takes to bring a championship to Arlington. It could either be a major success or a flop of epic proportions.

The Rangers’ latest Texas-sized expenditure involves giving outfielder Shin-Soo Choo a reported $130 million over the next seven seasons. It’s a lot of dough, especially for someone who isn’t considered an MLB superstar, and it further shows that GM Jon Daniels is serious about building an offensive powerhouse for Texas’ bandbox.

Choo has never been to an All-Star Game, but he’s been a very productive player, with his best season coming this past year in Cincinnati. The 31-year-old posted a fantastic .423 on-base percentage to go along with a .285 average, 21 homers, 54 RBIs and 20 stolen bases while hitting atop the Reds’ order. He should be a valuable contributor as the Rangers embark on what should be another tight race in the American League West.

Opinions have been split on the Choo signing thus far, but it’s clear that the Rangers are going all in. Now, let’s dive a little deeper into the whole deal.

  • Let’s establish one thing: Choo is going to make a lot of money.

At $130 million, Choo’s deal marks the 27th-largest contract in MLB history. It slots in right behind Alfonso Soriano’s ongoing $136 million contract and right ahead of Matt Cain’s ongoing $127.5 million pact.

With an average annual value around $18.57 million, Choo’s deal is the 34th-largest in MLB history in that regard. It slots in right behind Derek Jeter’s $18.9 million AAV from 2001-10 and right ahead of Buster Posey’s current AAV of roughly $18.56 million.

  • Let’s also be clear in that Choo is not a superstar. He’s never even been an All-Star. Therefore, in my opinion, a nine-figure deal is difficult to justify. Signing Choo to such a contract represents an ultimate win-now move by the Rangers.

 

Choo will turn 32 in July, and it’s very likely that the final few years of his deal will become dead money. At the very least, he’ll be viewed as grossly overpaid — something he perhaps already is — as his power and speed begin to diminish during his battle against Father Time. Choo is already a subpar defensive player, even though he’ll likely have the luxury of shifting back to a more fitting corner outfield spot in 2014.

Plate discipline is essentially what earned Choo his big contract. A lack of front office discipline could ultimately lead to the Rangers paying close to $20 million a year for a decent platoon player four or five years from now.

  • While it’s easy to knock their fiscal approach, the Rangers should absolutely be a better team in 2014 with Choo hitting atop the order. No matter what, Texas can take solace in that.

 

Choo’s on-base ability and Elvis Andrus’ speed will help create a dynamic 1-2 punch ahead of Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre in the Rangers’ lineup. What’s the over/under for Beltre’s RBI total — 130? 150? 700?

Right now, it looks like Texas has the best offense in baseball, even if the Rangers do need some things — most notably, Fielder’s power resurgence — to fall into place for that dream to become a reality.

 

  • It’s entirely possible that the Rangers’ major offseason moves are now behind them, meaning that there’s one less suitor for Masahiro Tanaka if the Japanese pitcher eventually gets posted.

 

That’s certainly good news for the Yankees, Angels and all of the other teams that have previously been linked to Tanaka.

 

  • Even if the Rangers are out on Tanaka, it will be interesting to see whether they consider jumping into the trade market for a starter. The starting rotation looks set, but Texas could still stand to improve in that department.

 

David Price would require a major haul and Chris Sale would require a king’s ransom, but the Rangers could really go for it all by acquiring a starter who is under team control for a few more years at a reasonable cost. The Rangers reportedly have shown a willingness to discuss trades involving Andrus and Jurickson Profar in the past.

 

  • The Rangers will have a lefty-heavy lineup in 2014. That makes the Angels’ additions of southpaws Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago look even better for Los Angeles.

 

Choo is a .309 hitter with a .411 on-base percentage in 2,549 career plate appearances versus right-handed pitchers. He’s a .243 hitter with a .340 on-base percentage in 1,128 career plate appearances versus left-handed pitchers.

 

  • The Reds have lost a very good leadoff hitter in Choo, but they should manage just fine.

 

Billy Hamilton might not evolve into an on-base machine, but his speed and superior defense will add a new dimension to Cincinnati’s lineup. Plus, the Reds will earn a draft pick by virtue of the qualifying offer that they made Choo at the beginning of free agency.

 

  • Choo’s contract is another reason for the 2015 class of free agents to lick its chops, although it’s a relatively weak class — with Hanley Ramirez and Chase Headley among the headliners — so spending now rather than next season makes sense for the Rangers and others.

 

The question for Texas is whether the Choo deal will be worth it in three, four or five years — never mind seven — and the answer will lie entirely in the Rangers’ ability (or inability) to capture that elusive championship.

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