Shin-Soo Choo Rumors

Choo Seeking To Exceed Werth’s $126MM Contract

Outgoing Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is being shopped above the seven-year, $126MM contract inked by Jayson Werth with the Nationals before the 2011 season, reports ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). The Scott Boras client, who is unquestionably one of the game's most attractive open market commodities, has long been rumored to be looking for nine figures, though a report yesterday said he was asking more in the $90MM range.  

The Werth comparison does make sense, so far as it goes. Both Werth and Choo hit the market in their early thirties, coming off of high-OBP, mid-140-OPS+ campaigns. Werth has shown somewhat more pop, while Choo reaches base like few others. Each is regarded as a solid glove in the corner outfield. But as MLBTR's Tim Dierkes explained in profiling Choo, the Werth contract has been viewed as a non-precedential deal. Hence, he predicts, Choo will probably get something more like six years and $100MM. Of course, contextual perception is important; with Werth coming off of an outstanding year, Boras may be able to argue that the contract is hardly the albatross it has been characterized as.

Whether or not Boras can land a Werth-sized deal, there is little question that Choo is hitting free agency at an opportune time. The remaining corner outfield market is thin, Choo returned to his earlier-career levels of performance last year, and new TV money could provide a boost in salaries around the game.


Mets Notes: Choo, Dodgers, Saunders, Trades

We learned of a few Mets items earlier today and a couple of minor league signings for the club.  Here's some more news from Citi Field…

  • Robinson Cano is the only player the Mets value as a $100MM-plus player this offseason, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman writes.  Since they won't be in on Cano, the Mets may also not be able to afford Shin-Soo Choo due to agent Scott Boras' nine-figure contract demands.
  • A Mets source tells Heyman that none of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford or Andre Ethier are currently part of the team's offseason plans.  We heard earlier today that the Dodgers were open to dealing any of the three veteran outfielders and the Mets have been linked to Ethier in the past.
  • Joe Saunders is a good fit for the Mets as a relatively inexpensive veteran innings-eater, several rival talent evaluators tell Mike Puma of the New York Post.  A pitcher like Saunders would help the Mets rotation in the short term while still allowing the team to spend larger dollars on hitters.
  • The Mets could "aggressively shop" Daniel Murphy this winter, MLB.com's Anthony DiComo writes as part of a reader mailbag.  The Mets could be looking to sell high on Murphy as team COO Jeff Wilpon didn't mention the second baseman when discussing players guaranteed roster spots for 2014.  In other mailbag topics, DiComo also doesn't see the Mets spending big on a single player like Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury, and he outlines the club's shortstop depth issue (though re-acquiring Jose Reyes is not a solution).

Mets Notes: Choo, D’Arnaud, 40-Man

Here's the latest out of New York's National League entrant:

  • The Mets have reached out to Scott Boras in regards to free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, reports Mike Puma of the New York Post via Twitter. The sides "haven't talked dollars," however, a club official told Puma. Per another tweet, that same official expressed uncertainty as to whether a Choo signing was a real possibility, explaining that "it depends at what number."
  • Boras is marketing Choo in the $90MM range, tweets Puma. The 31-year-old ranks third on MLBTR's Tim Dierkes's list of the top fifty free agents, and Dierkes predicted that he would reach a nine-figure deal.
  • Another team source says that the club could be in on basically any free agent other than crosstown star Robinson Cano, according to Marc Carig of Newsday, who emphasizes that the club has had preliminary discussions with a lot of targets. (Twitter links.) 
  • New York's front office is optimistic about adding talent via trade, Carig further tweets
  • With the Mets hoping to add a bat by working out a deal, but unwilling to ship out top young arms like Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler, Andy Martino of the New York Daily News wonders whether GM Sandy Alderson might instead be willing to part with catcher Travis D'Arnaud. Though he notes that there are plenty of reasons why that may not be a wise strategy, Martino adds that many in the organization think highly of prospect Kevin Plawecki.
  • According to Assistant GM Paul DePodesta, the club will likely add "more than a handfull" of prospects to the club's 40-man roster, reports Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rubin proceeds to tick through the possibilities, noting that only Jacob deGrom and Jeff Walters appear to be definite additions to a big league roster that currently has thirty-six spots occupied.


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.