The M’s are in the market for a free-agent outfielder, as the M’s outfield struggled a lot during the 2013 campaign.
Shin Soo Choo is a free agent. He is also an outfielder. He also happens to be pretty good.
Bringing in Choo would have drastic effects on the Mariner’s win column. Cano coupled with the possible addition of Choo puts the Mariners in the mix for the AL West title.
Choo was reported earlier this week to be looking for a contract similar to Jacoby Ellsbury’s 7 year, $148 million contract. I wrote earlier this week that Choo’s estimated value over the next seven years is about $125 million. A contract in this ballpark was looking like it would be too low just a couple of days ago, but now is looking more and more reasonable, due to teams who were formerly in the market for Choo are now no longer are. The Arizona Diamondbacks just completed a blockbuster trade to acquire Mark Trumbo from the LA Angels. The Detroit Tigers signed Rajai Davis to a contract rumored to be for 2 years and about $10 million.
Count both of those two teams out. That leaves the Mariners and the Texas Rangers as the two main players left on the Choo Choo Train.
Scott Boras, Choo’s
partner in crime agent was quoted earlier today saying that the Rangers and Choo were “a good fit”. I’m pretty sure just about every team is “a good fit” for a top of the line lead-off hitter. Don’t count the Mariners out of it yet. Not that you ever did.
It’s a good idea to dig a little deeper into Choo’s stats, considering there is a high probability that the M’s sign him. A important thing to note is that his platoon splits are huge. Like Arnold big. When hitting against right-handers, he’s practically Miguel Cabrera, but when staring down a southpaw, he turns into Dustin Ackley. And not even the good 2011 version of Dustin.
Last year against right handers, Choo’s OBP (on-base percentage) was .457, which is absolutely astronomical. His OBP against lefties was a mere .347–still pretty good, but still .110 points lower than against righties. Most pitchers in the Majors happen to be right-handed, so this is advantageous for both Choo and the team that signs him. However, his performance against both righties and lefties will start to decline significantly after 3 or 4 years, so at that time the Mariners would be wise to find him a platoon partner, but one is not necessary for a few years.
His first and second half splits were pretty close to identical, and he had only one bad month, which was June, where his OBP was only .364. In his worst month last season, he still had a considerably above-average OBP. That’s nice to know.
Choo’s stats from earlier in his career are promising, too. His strikeout rate has hovered between 18% and 21% for most of his career. Choo’s walk rate hovered from 10% to 13%, and in 2013 walked 15.7% of the time. That should be expected to come back down to Earth in 2014, likely between 12% and 13%. Choo’s WAR in four of the last six years has been 3.0 or higher, the only exceptions being 2011 and 2012, where he produced WARs of 1.3 and 2.4, respectively.
Last season, Choo recorded the second-lowest BAPIP of his career at .338. This is good news as Choo’s success last year cannot be chalked up to luck. A very interesting stat of Choo’s to note is his success (?) in getting hit by pitches. Before 2013, Choo had not been hit more than 17 times in one season. In 2013, he was pegged an astounding 26 times. That is not a fluke. Choo is putting his body on the line for the sake of getting on base. That is an admirable quality for a player to have, and one that will certainly inflate his on-base percentage stats.
Is it possible that in 2013 Choo knew that this was a large contract year for him, and stepped in to a few pitches in order to inflate his OBP numbers? It’s certainly possible. Would I step into 10 extra pitches in order to attain a higher OBP that will likely fetch me over $100 million? Absolutely. However, is it likely that Choo stepped in 95 MPH fastballs knowing it would inflate OBP numbers and thus free agent value? Probably not.
Something that Choo has going for him is a body type that tends to age better than most. He is 5’11″ and weighs in at 205 pounds. Guys like that tend to age better than their taller and heavier counterparts. This should make the Mariners more interested in Choo.
Choo will have another tremendous season in 2014. His WAR will likely be somewhere within 0.5 of 5.0, which would be worth $25 million dollars on the free agent market. The Mariners hopefully are having talks with Choo. If he can be signed for under $120 million and 7 years, barring any injuries, the contract would end up being worth it. If the M’s can ink him to a deal that is worth millions less than that, good. Hopefully Choo ends up wearing a Mariners uniform come 2014. And hopefully it’s not for $150 million.