Shin-Soo Choo (Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports)
Shin-Soo Choo is the best remaining player on the free agent market. You actually could make the argument that overall, he was the third best free agent this winter.
Since the beginning of the off-season, Choo has been linked to the Houston Astros. The Astros have never been the favorites to sign the 31-year old outfielder, but from time to time their name has come up. And we also know that in the rumor department, we don’t get much out of the Astros or Jeff Luhnow. All of their moves so far this winter have seemingly come out of nowhere.
But as Bob Nightengale is reporting, there is some belief that Choo may be calling Houston home in 2014.
As of now, it appears that Scott Boras is holding out for a deal similar to Jacoby Ellsbury‘s for Choo. The indication, is that Choo is looking for a seven year contract, and so far, the Texas Rangers are only willing to give him five years.
Last season Choo batted .285 for the Cincinnati Reds with 21 home runs, 54 RBI’s, 107 runs, and 20 stolen bases. He is a versatile player who can play anywhere in the outfield (although he is better as a corner outfielder) and bat just about anywhere in the lineup. Choo also gets on base at a high clip as his on base percentage last season was .423.
What we saw out of Choo last year is pretty much indicative of what you can expect from him going forward for the next few years. In four of his last five seasons (Choo only played in 85 games in 2011), he came just four home runs in 2012 short of being a 20/20 player each year.
Batting in the middle of the order in 2009 and 2010, Choo drove in 86 and 90 runs respectively, so you can also count on him as a run producer.
It sounds like Choo would be a perfect addition to the Astros’ outfield. So why would I not be too keen on the idea?
Seven years is a long time. At the end of the contract, Choo would be 38 years old. For a player whose value is partly determined by his speed, that is too old. This is a type of contract that can hamstring a team moving forward.
Then there is the small issue of money. I can’t see Choo’s contract being for less than an average of $18-$20 million a season. Based on the current market value, for a four or five year contract, there really isn’t anything wrong with that.
The problem though, is that if Choo does join the Astros, he immediately becomes the best player on the team. Even though Luhnow has been improving the team this winter, they are still not going to be contending for the playoffs in the next two to three years. By that point Choo will be 34 and no longer in his prime.
Yes adding Choo will make the Astros better for this season, but with a lack of surrounding talent, the full value of the investment will not be realized. And regardless of what Jim Crane says, I can’t imagine that this contract will not prohibit the Astros from improving in the future.
This is why Luhnow should pass and let the Rangers overspend.