Shin-Soo Choo Rumors

Boras On Ellsbury, Choo, Drew, Morales

Agent Scott Boras joined ESPN's Keith Law on his latest Behind the Dish podcast.  A few highlights:

  • Jacoby Ellsbury has "illustrated that he's a highly durable athlete," according to Boras.  The agent explained that people running into Ellsbury, which caused his two major injuries, has nothing to do with his durability.  Ellsbury is "a game-changer for a lot of franchises," as the importance of leadoff hitters has increased as power has declined.  Boras says a player of Ellsbury's caliber is typically locked up by his team and does not reach free agency.  I projected a seven-year, $150MM contract for Ellsbury in my recent free agent profile.
  • Shin-Soo Choo is a "premium defensive outfielder at the corners," says Boras, which is further proven by him being able to handle center field for a season with the Reds.  
  • Seven or eight teams could "change the dynamic of the production of their infield" with shortstop Stephen Drew, in the opinion of Boras.
  • Kendrys Morales' metrics at first base are above average, Boras told Law, adding,  "He clearly is a good first baseman."  Boras feels that pundits don't appreciate the rarity of a switch-hitter with a middle of the order bat, in this case.  Morales is "the only other one really than Cano who you can say has the ability to be a run producer in the middle of the lineup" in this free agent market, says Boras, an assessment with which the agents for Brian McCann, Mike Napoli, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson, and Nelson Cruz might disagree.

West Notes: Headley, Mariners, McCann, McKinney

The Padres face a decision on Chase Headley this winter, and Yahoo's Tim Brown tweets that their current preference is to hang onto their All-Star third baseman and hope that his big September numbers translate to a big year. Headley slipped to a .250/.347/.400 batting line in 2013 but thrived in the season's final month, slashing .305/.424/.573 with five homers. He's projected to earn $10MM next season, after which he's eligible for free agency. More news from baseball's Western divisions below…

  • Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports tweets out a clarification from an earlier report he made: the Mariners are not in on Mike Napoli this winter. Their priorities this offseason are to sign one ofJacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo and add a starting pitcher. However, they are also expected to pursue a right-handed bat of some kind, says Rosenthal.
  • Athletics 2013 first-rounder Billy McKinney has left BBI Sports Group and joined the Boras Corporation, Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reported yesterday (via Twitter). McKinney slashed .326/.387/.437 across two levels in his first pro season, reaching short-season Class A shortly after his 19th birthday.
  • The Angels hooked up with the Rays to land Scott Kazmir and nearly landed James Shields in July 2012 and Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com wonders if they can link up again to work out a deal for David Price.  To date, there's no indication that the two sides are engaged in serious talks.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Reds Make Qualifying Offer To Choo, Not Arroyo

3:31pm: Reds assistant director of media relations Jamie Ramsey confirms that Choo has received a qualifying offer and Arroyo has not.

3:22pm: MLB.com's Mark Sheldon reports that the Reds have officially extended a qualifying offer to Shin-Soo Choo.

Choo, 31, batted .285/.423/.462 with 21 homers and 20 stolen bases in his lone season with the Reds. The Reds' decision to make him a qualifying offer comes as little surprise, given his status as one of the market's most highly regarded free agents (he ranked No. 3 on MLBTR's Top 50).

MLBTR owner Tim Dierkes projected a six-year, $100MM contract in his free agent profile for Choo, predicting that Choo's sky-high on-base percentage (he ranked fourth in MLB) and agent Scott Boras' negotiating skills would outweigh Choo's problems against left-handed pitching and defensive question marks.

1:36pm: The Reds will not make a qualifying offer to right-hander Bronson Arroyo, according to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The lack of a qualifying offer is good news for Arroyo and agent Terry Bross of Gaylord Sports Management, as interested teams won't be required to surrender a draft pick to obtain his services on the free agent market.

The $14.1MM value of the qualifying offer was too great a risk for the small-market Reds to take, writes Heyman. I agree with the thinking, as it seems there was a decent chance Arroyo would've accepted the offer, knowing what draft pick compensation would've done to his value on the open market.

Arroyo, 37 in February, topped 199 innings for the ninth consecutive season in 2013, posting a solid 3.79 ERA with 5.5 K/9 and 1.5 BB/9 in 202 innings. MLBTR's Tim Dierkes profiled Arroyo in September, predicting that the veteran innings eater would land a two-year, $24MM contract, provided the Reds didn't issue a qualifying offer.



Free Agent Profile: Shin-Soo Choo

Shin-Soo Choo's .423 on-base percentage ranked fourth in all of baseball this year, and easily topped Robinson Cano for the best among all free agents.  The 31-year-old South Korea native hits free agency at an ideal time, and ranks third overall on our Free Agent Power Rankings.

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Pros/Strengths

Choo was the quintessential leadoff man for the Reds this year, parlaying a career-best 15.7% walk rate and a career-high 26 times hit by a pitch into that fantastic OBP.  Aside from an injury-marred 2011 season, Choo has never posted an OBP below .373 in a full campaign, regularly tallying 160+ hits, 70+ walks, and around 15 HBPs.  The average outfielder posted a .323 OBP this year, by comparison.  Choo has batted .284 over the past two seasons and has consistently hit for average.  He also hit 21 home runs this year, the third time in his career he's hit at least 20.  Assuming options are picked up on Coco Crisp and Adam Lind, only seven free agents hit more homers than Choo.

Choo has generally been quite durable outside of 2011, regularly playing in 150+ games.  He showed himself as a team player this year in accepting a center field assignment from the Reds, never having played the position regularly in the Majors.

Choo's baseball card numbers were excellent this year, with 107 runs scored, 21 home runs, and 20 stolen bases.  It was the third 20/20 season of his career, so he can be a power/speed threat.

Weaknesses/Cons

Choo struggles against left-handed pitching, with a .207/.332/.276 line in 463 plate appearances since 2012.  If the situation worsens, a platoon could be in the cards in the latter half of his contract.

Though Choo has stolen 41 bases over the past two seasons, he's also been caught 18 times.  That 69% success rate suggests he should get the green light less often.  Overall, his baserunning has been a mild negative in each of the past two seasons.

Choo's defense has been a large detriment in recent years, whether in his natural right field in 2012 or in center field in 2013.  He had a fine offensive season in 2012, but his defense knocked his FanGraphs wins above replacement down to 2.4.  Overall, that's solid but not elite performance, and it stands to reason that Choo's defense could become an even bigger problem over the next four or five years.  Agent Scott Boras disagrees, telling Jon Heyman of CBS Sports Choo is a "Gold Glove type defender" in right field.

Signing Choo will require sacrificing a draft pick, as he's expected to receive and turn down a qualifying offer from the Reds.

I don't generally consider All-Star appearances as a great barometer for a player's abilities, especially with a player with Choo's skillset.  But, it should be noted that Choo has never made an All-Star team.

Personal

Choo resides with his wife, two sons, and daugther in Arizona.  He is the all-time batting leader from Korea in all notable categories, and is a celebrity there.  He was known as one of the Indians' hardest workers, wrote Amy K. Nelson for ESPN in 2009.  In 2010, he helped Korea to the gold medal in the Asian Games, earning exemption from a mandatory two-year military stint.  On the negative side, Choo disappointed the Indians several months later with a DUI that included a blood-alcohol level of .201.  Teammate Jack Hannahan commented after Choo's apology, "He's a great guy and a great teammate.  Choo's a big leader on this team. He's tough as nails. He's being a man about it and accepting it." 

Market

Choo is among the top free agent outfielders, and is joined by Jacoby Ellsbury, Curtis Granderson, Carlos Beltran, Marlon Byrd, and Nelson Cruz.  "There are so many teams that need a leadoff hitter," Boras told Heyman in September.  The general belief is that the Reds won't be able to afford Choo, while the Cubs, Mets, Astros, and Yankees have been named early as likely suitors.  The Mets' first-round pick is protected, and while they might be willing to let their second-round pick go to sign Choo, Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com says they "are not believed to be willing to give more than a Michael Bourn-type contract — four years."  The Cubs may be wary of surrendering their second-round pick, plus the outfield is one of their farm system's biggest strengths.  The Astros connection seems speculative at best, while the Yankees seem like a viable contender for Choo.  

The Mariners, Rangers, Royals, Pirates, and Orioles also could be in the market for a corner outfielder this offseason, but not necessarily at top of the market money.

Expected Contract

Boras is the game's toughest negotiator and one of its biggest talkers.  Asked by Heyman about one GM's $100MM prediction, Boras replied, "As a custom of the industry, prognostications by executives this time of year are dramatically divergent from the real market.  I don't think anyone correctly predicted what Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford got."  Boras also took issue with the idea of Choo being limited to five years.

A five-year deal would cover Choo's age 31-35 seasons, and those are hard enough to come by for position players.  In the last five years, we've seen multiyear free agent deals for Josh Hamilton (5), B.J. Upton (5), Albert Pujols (10), Prince Fielder (9), Jose Reyes (6), Crawford (7), Werth (7), Adrian Beltre (5), Matt Holliday (7), and Mark Teixeira (8).  We've seen many more on the extension front, with Hunter Pence's five-year deal the most relevant and recent comparable for Choo.  Boras deserves credit for Werth's contract, but it was an outlier rather than a model, especially since no other team was clearly offering even five years.  Crawford, Upton, and Reyes were significantly younger, with the latter two playing premium positions.  Boras does not always succeed in his contractual goals, failing to secure a fifth guaranteed year for Michael Bourn last winter.

With Choo, I can see a lot of teams willing to offer four years, a handful willing to offer five, and perhaps one willing to guarantee six.  The Pence contract seems to raise the bar for Choo, who I ultimately have signing a six-year, $100MM deal.  At a reasonable $16.67MM AAV, such a deal may appeal to teams with luxury tax concerns.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


Shin-Soo Choo On Yankees Radar

The Yankees have been linked to a handful of big name free agents like Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann in recent weeks, but there's apparently a new name on their radar.  The Yankees also discussed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo at their organizational meetings over the past couple of days, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com.

Multiple sources indicate that the Yanks are quite fond of Choo and his on-base ability.  In his first year batting leadoff for the Reds, he had a .423 on-base percentage, second only to teammate Joey Votto in the NL.  The Bombers, as we all know, are trying to get under the $189MM luxury tax threshold and they could be vying with the Rangers, Cubs, Astros, Mariners, Phillies, Mets, and the incumbent Reds.

While finding an outfielder is high on the club's list, they also need consider third base, shortstop, catcher, and their starting rotation.  Of course, their No. 1 priority will be trying to work out a new deal with star second baseman Robinson Cano.  


Astros Could Pursue Choo In Free Agency

The lowly Astros could shock everyone and go after outfielder Shin-Soo Choo in the coming off-season, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The club has literally no ongoing future salary commitments other than the recently extended Jose Altuve, leaving ample flexibility if it chooses to increase its payroll. And GM Jeff Luhnow is a well-known proponent of on-base percentage, says Heyman. 

Heyman analogizes the possibility of Choo going to the Astros to the Nationals' signing of Jayson Werth back in 2010. Indeed, there seems to be little doubt that a huge payday would be necessary to lure Choo to Houston. The 31-year-old figures to appeal to a wide variety of clubs, and the cellar-dwelling 'Stros might need to outbid the market by a decent sum. Hunter Pence signed for $90MM before he even hit free agency, setting a high price point and reducing supply. And Choo's agent, Scott Boras, is expected to demand nine figures for the on-base machine.


Mets Notes: Murphy, Young, Abreu, Tanaka

Earlier today, the Mets officially announced their two-year extension of manager Terry Collins' contract. Andy Martino of the New York Daily News reports that pitching coach Dan Warthen also received a two-year contract, making him the only coach on the Mets' staff to secure a multiyear guarantee. Here's more on the Amazins…

  • The team will be open to trading Daniel Murphy this offseason, according to ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin. He cautions that the Mets don't necessarily expect to trade Murphy, but adds that they'll be open to moving him if the trade fills a larger hole like shortstop or the outfield. New York would move Eric Young Jr. to second base in that scenario to keep his much-needed speed in the lineup. Rubin feels that Young, who swiped a league-leading 46 bases this season, will be a starter on next year's team in some capacity.
  • Rubin also notes, once again, that Shin-Soo Choo is the only free agent the Mets would surrender a pick for (he would cost the Mets their second-rounder, as their first is protected). Choo will likely be too expensive for the Mets, however, especially in light of Hunter Pence's five-year, $90MM extension, so the Mets are likely to instead follow Boston's model from last offseason and sign multiple middle-tier free agents to shorter-term deals. Rubin points out that the Mets could make several external additions and still see a decrease in payroll due to the huge contracts they have coming off the books.
  • The Mets have upped their international scouting efforts, which could be a sign that they'll be more active on the global market this winter, tweets Marc Carig of Newsday.
  • Along those same lines, Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweets that the Mets have three scouts in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic to watch Jose Dariel Abreu. They also plan to do due diligence on Masahiro Tanaka, tweets Anthony DiComo of MLB.com. Sherman is careful to add that the Mets are still seen as a long-shot to land Abreu.
  • After talking with a club official, Mike Puma of the New York Post (on Twitter) feels that the Mets will try to "get creative" in a trade for a big-ticket item before going the free agent route. Carig chimes in as well, adding that with so much money coming off the books, the Mets could take on a big contract should they go that route (Twitter link).
  • GM Sandy Alderson told reporters, including DiComo, that he's hopeful the team will be able to make a splash in free agency this offseason (Twitter links).

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Mets Unlikely To Go Past Four Years For Choo

The Mets have already been linked to Shin-Soo Choo, but ESPN's Adam Rubin writes that their interest appears to have a limit. The Mets are interested in Choo for something similar to Michael Bourn's contract but aren't likely to go beyond that level to sign the 31-year-old. Rubin emphasizes the four years that Bourn signed for as opposed to the $48MM, so perhaps there's some leeway in terms of average annual value (though that's merely my speculation).

Additionally, Rubin notes that Choo appears to be the lone free agent for whom the Mets would be willing to surrender a draft pick. The Mets aren't likely to pursue other free agents that turn down qualifying offers, even if they end up with a protected first-round pick.

Choo, in his first and likely only season with Cincinnati, is hitting .286/.424/.466 with 21 homers and 20 steals — the third 20/20 campaign of what has been a strong big league career to date. His defense has graded out as a negative, but that's in part due to the fact that he's being played out of position in center field. However, both UZR and DRS pegged his glove as a negative in his final season with the Indians in right field as well.

If agent Scott Boras' recent comments are any indicator, four years won't even be in the ballpark, at least not early on. Boras recently stated that he feels $100MM is on the low end of what Choo deserves in his first big free agent contract.

Even if that's more a negotiation tactic of starting high, it does seem that Boras will be able to find a deal that tops Bourn's contract for Choo, though it's not a guarantee. Boras himself represents Bourn and began last offseason seeking a five- or six-year commitment for the speedster before settling for a four-year deal with Cleveland in February. Of course, that was a unique situation, as two of Bourn's biggest suitors acquired speedy center fielders from the Twins via trade. The Nats landed Denard Span, and the Phillies picked up Ben Revere, effectively removing each deep-pocketed club from the Bourn sweepstakes.

If the Mets aren't willing to surrender a draft pick to acquire any other free agent help, that will significantly reduce their list of targets — particularly in the outfield. Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Hunter Pence and Curtis Granderson all seem likely to obtain qualifying offers from their respective clubs. Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz could also receive qualifying offers.

The Mets currently project to pick 12th in the 2014 draft, which would leave their first-round selection unprotected. The results of this weekend's series could net them a Top 10 selection, but GM Sandy Alderson prefers winning games to ending up with a protected pick.


Boras Targeting $100MM+ For Shin-Soo Choo

Last month, one MLB executive told Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com that Shin-Soo Choo could fetch $90-$100MM on the open market this winter.  It's a number that probably seems high to many, but agent Scott Boras thinks that figure is actually on the low side.

"As a custom of the industry, prognostications by executives this time of year are dramatically divergent from the real market," Boras told Heyman. "I don't think anyone correctly predicted what Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford got."

Heyman checked in with three other execs on guesses for Choo – two said $75MM over five years and one threw out $56MM for four.  Two of the executives were probably using B.J. Upton's $75.5MM, five-year deal as a comp, and the other was likely looking at Michael Bourn's four-year, $48MM pact with the Indians (and possibly Nick Swisher's four-year, $56MM contract as well).  Boras argues that none of those estimates are on the mark because, in part, they are working off of the assumption that five years is as high as a club will go.  

The agent notes that Werth got seven years from the Nationals, and while Choo isn't exactly a spring chicken, he is the same age (31) that Werth was when he inked his deal. Choo also actually boasts a slightly better career slash line than Werth.  He adds that Choo's value could also get a boost thanks to his ability to play center field and bat leadoff (though a look at defensive metrics like UZR and DRS indicate that Choo is clearly not cut out for center field).

If Choo's next deal is worth $100MM or more, it would be more than just surprising, it would be historical.  Of the 43 players that have received nine-figure deals, only six - Werth, Zack Greinke, Ryan Zimmerman, Mike Hampton, Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran - had just one All-Star selection before putting pen to paper.  Choo, meanwhile, has never made an All-Star team.

So far, Choo has already been linked to the Mets and Cubs, and he should have plenty of other suitors this offseason. Choo reportedly "loves" Cincinnati, but GM Walt Jocketty was candid earlier in the year in expressing that it would likely be difficult for the team to afford Choo beyond 2013.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.


Royals Notes: Yost, Bonifacio, Choo, Beltran

Justin Maxwell's walkoff grand slam yesterday helped the Royals earn their 82nd win of the season, thus ensuring that the club will enjoy a winning record for just the second time in the last 19 seasons (and first time since 2003).  The Royals sit 3.5 games behind the Indians for the last AL wild card slot, so while it would take a big finish to reach the postseason, K.C. will go into the offseason on a high note for the first time in years.  Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star looks ahead to potential winter moves for the Royals as part of a reader Q&A piece…

  • "It's not a slam dunk" that Ned Yost returns as the Royals manager in 2014, as Dutton believes that the lack of rumors about contract talks could indicate that the club is considering a change in the dugout.  Dutton recently reported that owner David Glass was leaving Yost's fate up to GM Dayton Moore, and Moore said he is waiting until after the season to discuss contracts with Yost and the coaching staff.
  • Moore and his staff should be credited, Dutton opines, for getting major contributions from Maxwell and Emilio Bonifacio in what seemed like minor trades at the time.  Maxwell, acquired from the Astros on deadline day, has a .972 OPS in 89 PA as a Royal, while Bonifacio is hitting .287/.359/.353 over 155 PA and is 15-for-17 in steal attempts since being claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays in mid-August.
  • Bonifacio's emergence means that the Royals no longer have to make second base a major priority this offseason.  Bonifacio could start and the team is happy with Pedro Ciriaco as the utility infielder, though Bonifacio would return to his original utility role if the club does pick someone else up.  With Bonifacio and Ciriaco in the fold, Dutton doesn't see much room for Chris Getz or Johnny Giavotella on the roster.
  • The Royals will probably check in on Shin-Soo Choo this winter but Dutton suspects the free agent outfielder will be too expensive for the team.  Choo is the fifth-ranked player on Tim Dierkes' Free Agent Power Rankings and will draw a lot of interest from several teams, so Dutton is probably right in assuming that K.C. will be priced out.
  • An outfielder could be an offseason target for the team, as Dutton feels this would be the easiest spot to add a much-needed bat to the lineup.  Alex Gordon and Lorenzo Cain are locks to return, with Maxwell, David Lough and Jarrod Dyson all currently in the mix for the third OF spot or a bench role. 
  • In terms of big-name free agent outfielders, Dutton sees Carlos Beltran as a likelier bet to sign with the Royals than Curtis Granderson, but while Beltran would be more open of the two to sign with K.C. for market value, Dutton still deems a Beltran return as "not likely."  As MLBTR's Charlie Wilmoth noted yesterday in his Beltran vs. Nelson Cruz Free Agent Faceoff piece, Beltran is a defensive question mark at this point in his career, so he might not be a fit with the Royals given how Billy Butler is entrenched at DH.