Shin-Soo Choo Rumors
4:05pm: ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett reports that Choo will earn $14MM in 2014 and 2015, $20MM annually from 2016-18 and $21MM in 2019 and 2020 (Twitter link).
3:15pm: With an outstanding rotation locked up for the foreseeable future, the Rangers have focused on re-shaping their offense this winter, and Shin-Soo Choo is the next piece of the puzzle. The Rangers have officially announced the signing of Choo to a seven-year contract that is reportedly worth $130MM. Reportedly, $5MM of the first year's salary will be shifted to 2016-17, creating more flexibility in 2014. The 31-year-old Scott Boras client does not have an opt-out in his contract but did receive a limited no-trade clause.
As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes wrote in his profile of Choo, who ranked third on Dierkes's list of the top fifty free agents, the South Korean on-base machine hit the open market at an optimal time. Having never seen his OBP drop below a .373 mark, Choo reached another level last year with a .285/.423/.462 line (over 712 plate appearances) in his first and only season with the Reds. (Of course, as Dierkes explained, Choo's biggest weakness -- his struggles against left-handed pitching -- could force him into a platoon role in the later years of his deal.) Choo also knocked twenty home runs in 2013 for the third time in his career. Batting atop the lineup in Cincinnati, Choo also swiped over twenty bags for the fourth time, though he was also tagged out eleven times in the process.
Though Choo played in center last year for the Reds, the expectation is that he will man a corner position in Texas. If the Rangers indeed intend to go with Leonys Martin up the middle, it would seem likely that the club would be out of the mix for Nelson Cruz. (Alex Rios is already penciled into one corner spot.) Though it certainly doesn't preclude anything, Choo will wear No. 17 in Texas (as he did in Cincinnati) -- the same number that Cruz donned while with the Rangers. The Rangers said at today's press conference today that the current plan is for Choo to serve as their new leadoff hitter.
Texas GM Jon Daniels has not been shy in adding lengthy and substantial contracts to his club's books of late. He added dollars and years through trades for Rios and Prince Fielder (offset only in part by the departure of Ian Kinsler in that deal). And Daniels has done the same via extension, with Martin Perez (four years, $12.5MM), Elvis Andrus (eight years, $120MM), and Matt Harrison (five years, $55MM) all getting new deals in the last year. Add it all up, and the Rangers have added nearly $400MM in future obligations in the 2013 calendar year. That would seem likely to take the club out of the mix for Masahiro Tanaka (in the event that he is posted).
At seven years and $130MM, Choo will receive an average annual value of just over $18.5MM. His deal slots in $23MM shy of that inked by Jacoby Ellsbury with the Yankees over the same length of time, but comes with a $40MM larger guarantee than that achieved by Hunter Pence in the five-year deal he reached with the Giants just before hitting the open market.
The Rangers were willing to go to seven years and a big sum of money, says Passan, in part due to the weak set of hitters available via free agency next year. Of course, new candidates could emerge; one year ago, it would have seemed quite unlikely that Choo would command this kind of payday. The Yankees may have been willing to reach the $140MM level in a seven-year pact with Choo, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post. But the lack of state income tax in Texas boosted the value of the Rangers' offer, and Choo apparently also preferred to join Texas.
Since Choo turned down a qualifying offer from the Reds, his former club will receive a compensatory pick. Texas, meanwhile, stands to lose its first-round draft choice, though it could regain a choice in the sandwich round if Cruz signs elsewhere.
Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported that an agreement had been reached (via Twitter). Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News first reported (via Twitter) that the deal was expected to be worth $130MM. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that $5MM of Choo's 2014 salary was shifted to 2016-17 (via Twitter), and Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweeted that Choo's contract does not contain an opt-out but has a limited no-trade clause.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Now that the Rangers have agreed to terms with Shin-Soo Choo, most of their offseason maneuvering is complete, as Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com notes. Or, at least, it could be complete. Whether or not the Rangers are actually done remains to be seen. At this point, though, the Rangers appear to have addressed all their major needs.
Heading into the offseason, we noted that the Rangers would likely look to try to upgrade the first base and designated hitter positions, and that a trade of Ian Kinsler might make sense, given their infield logjam. The Rangers addressed both issues with one deal, sending Kinsler to the Tigers for Prince Fielder and $30MM. Despite receiving cash from the Tigers, the deal added to the Rangers' payroll burden, but it also gave them a star-caliber first baseman (Steamer projects Fielder will be worth 3.6 WAR in 2014), allowing them to bump Mitch Moreland to DH and open second base for top prospect Jurickson Profar, who will join Fielder, Elvis Andrus and Adrian Beltre in the Rangers' infield.
2013 Rangers catchers A.J. Pierzynski and Geovany Soto were both eligible for free agency after the season, leaving the Rangers in need of two big-league catchers. Rather than signing Brian McCann or making another big-ticket move, the Rangers went cheap at catcher, re-signing Soto with the idea that he would be their primary backstop in 2014. Soto served as Pierzynski's backup in 2013, but at age 31 and coming off a .245/.328/.466 season, he could be a bargain at one year and $3.05MM. With Soto in the fold, the Rangers signed J.P. Arencibia to be his backup. Arencibia hit just .194/.227/.365 in 2013, but his above-average power could play well in Texas.
At the beginning of December, the Rangers sent sabermetric favorite Craig Gentry (who produced a whopping 3.4 WAR in a part-time role in 2013, thanks largely to his defense) and pitcher Josh Lindblom to Oakland for outfielder Michael Choice and infield prospect Chris Bostick. Texas exchanged one excellent role player for an outfielder in Choice with more long-term upside and years of control. The deal also allowed Leonys Martin to move into a full-time role in center field, with Engel Beltre, who is out of options, becoming his backup.
And then came another blockbuster, as the Rangers agreed to terms with Choo on a seven-year, $130MM deal. With Nelson Cruz departing via free agency, the Rangers had a spot open in their outfield (more on Choice's role in a second), and a need for a big bat.
Choo isn't an archetypal slugger, but he's posted on-base percentages north of .390 in four of the last six seasons. As some analysts, such as ESPN's Keith Law (Insider-only), noted, the Rangers are taking a big long-term risk with a contract of this size. Choo is already 31 and is a poor hitter against lefties, meaning there's a good chance he'll need to be shoehorned into a part-time role well before the contract ends. Choo's high HBP totals -- he had a career-high 26 in 2013 -- make him an injury concern going forward. And as ESPN's Dan Szymborski notes (via Twitter), high-OBP corner outfielders who don't have great power tend to decline quickly. Choo also will cost the Rangers their first-round draft pick next year. In the short term, though, Choo is a huge upgrade at the Rangers' last remaining key position of need.
The Rangers will likely head into 2014 with Alex Rios and Choo as their main options at the corner outfield positions. With Martin in center, that means the only starting offensive position that's even a little bit unsettled is designated hitter. While it still isn't impossible that the Rangers could re-sign Cruz, they now have enough decent options at the position that they could just go into 2014 with what they have. Moreland, a lefty, would likely take most of the at bats against righties, and Choice might be an option at the position as well. What the Rangers plan to do with Choice is unclear. The Rangers could option him to Triple-A to play every day. But as a righty, he would also have value as a bench outfielder and occasional DH, filling in for Moreland or Choo when lefties take the mound.
The Rangers have no obvious needs in their rotation, with Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Alexi Ogando occupying four spots, Matt Harrison returning from injury to take the fifth one, and Nick Tepesch available as depth. With a variety of options at the closer position, including Neftali Feliz, Tanner Scheppers and Joakim Soria, they don't have to worry about replacing the departing Joe Nathan, either.
The Rangers might not be done making news. If they were to re-sign Cruz, for example, they might then trade Moreland to a team like the Pirates or Brewers. But they don't need to make any more big moves. They've acquired two catchers, cleared the way for Profar and added two big bats in Fielder and Choo. They already appear to be mostly set for 2014.
Most executives and scouts expected Shin-Soo Choo to wind up with the Rangers, ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick reports. Sources say Choo liked Texas because of its recent run of success, the growing Korean population in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and because the team conducts Spring Training in Arizona. While GM Jon Daniels would have also been comfortable re-signing Nelson Cruz to a shorter deal, the agreement shows that MLB executives prefer to have their rosters complete before Christmas, Crasnick says. Here's more on the deal from around baseball:
- The signing makes Texas one of the AL's best teams, ESPN.com's Keith Law says, writing that Choo could be worth 6 wins in 2014 because of the defensive boost he's likely to get after transitioning out of center field. However, Law notes that it's also a lengthy contract for a player who struggles mightily against left-handed pitching.
- The Mariners appear to be one of the losers following the signing, according to Law, who says Seattle projects as the fourth-best team in the AL West even after inking Robinson Cano. Choo would have also been a good fit for the Tigers, who Law says have had a puzzling offseason thus far.
- A source close to Choo says the outfielder considered the Rangers his "clear first choice," FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal writes. While Texas will enter 2014 with more left-handed hitters in its lineup, the club appears to be the AL West's best as things currently stand, Rosenthal says. He adds that the signing takes the Rangers out of the running for Masahiro Tanaka, if he's eventually posted.
- Anthony Castrovince profiles Choo in an article for MLB.com, lauding his work ethic.
- Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News writes that the deal completes a Texas offseason in which the team managed to achieve nearly all of its goals. The club had intended to keep its payroll around $125MM.
- While the Yankees weren't able to sign Choo, Anthony McCarron of the New York Daily News says the deal may ultimately help the Yanks because it eliminates Texas as a potential suitor for Masahiro Tanaka.
By agreeing to a seven-year, $130MM contract today with Shin-Soo Choo, the Rangers put an exclamation point on an offseason of sizable future salary commitments -- for the team and the league as a whole. Along with the contract commitments taken on or made to Alex Rios, Prince Fielder, Martin Perez, Elvis Andrus, and Matt Harrison, Texas has added nearly $400MM in future salary obligations to its books during the 2013 calendar year. And as MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Tracker shows, league-wide salary expenditure through free agency has now passed the bar set in 2013, when the league spent $1.46 billion on open-market players.
With Choo off the board, the top remaining free agent position players are Stephen Drew and Nelson Cruz. Of course, several other major pitching targets are still free, and figure to command sizeable deals of their own. Here are some of the early reactions from around baseball to Choo's signing:
- As far as discipline goes, Choo, Prince Fielder and Geovany Soto will add real stress to opponent pitch counts, writes Evan Grant of the Dallas News. In 2013, the Rangers ranked ninth in the AL in total pitches seen and that was with the benefit one of extra game.
- In the wake of Choo signing with Texas, Reds GM Walt Jocketty reiterated that Billy Hamilton is his guy, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “He’s the guy,” Jocketty said. “We feel confident he can be a good leadoff hitter. He’ll give us great defense. The only question is how often he can get on base. He’ll start working on his bunting again after the first of the year. If he can master that, it will really help him.”
- The Rangers and Boras worked well into Friday night and Saturday morning to put together the deal, writes Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports. Brown adds that Choo's left-handed bat should play particularly well in Texas.
- Bringing Choo into the fold takes care of the final item on the Rangers' to-do list and helps ensure that the three-way race for the American League West will once again be must-see baseball, writes Fangraphs' Paul Swydan.
- Richard Durrett of ESPNDallas.com looks at possible lineups for the Rangers now that Choo is in the fold.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
While the market for Shin-Soo Choo has been slow to develop, he could have already found a home had accepted a lavish offer from the Yankees. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that even after signing Jacoby Ellsbury to a seven-year, $153MM contract, the Yankees offered Choo a seven-year, $140MM contract. Agent Scott Boras reportedly countered by asking for Ellsbury money, and the Yankees instead elected to sign Carlos Beltran to a much cheaper three-year, $45MM pact.
With Choo no longer a fit in New York, Boras will have to look elsewhere to try to top that $140MM figure. The Rangers are one team that has been said to be interested in Choo, but reports have indicated that they prefer him on a five-year deal. Beyond that, according to Passan's report, Texas has instead turned its focus to Masahiro Tanaka.
Passan also adds that multiple teams, including the Astros, have offers on the table to Choo at this time. It's not clear how much Houston has offered, but as Passan notes, an outfield of Choo, Dexter Fowler and top prospect George Springer would be an excellent trio. The Astros, however, aren't big fans of the idea of surrendering their second-round pick to sign Choo, writes Passan, especially considering that NC State lefty Carlos Rodon -- a Boras advisee -- is the favorite to go No. 1 overall to the Astros. Rodon would command a significant chunk of Houston's draft budget, which would shrink were the team to forfeit its second-round selection.
Kendrys Morales is being pursued by National League teams as well as American League teams, agent Scott Boras tells Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (Twitter links). Boras describes Morales as a "first baseman who can DH" but Morosi thinks that the draft pick compensation issue will hurt his value. More from around baseball..
- One GM tells Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter) that he doesn't think there's any doubt that Masahiro Tanaka will get more than $100MM.
- The Rakuten Golden Eagles can only take in $20MM under the new posting system, but Ben Badler of Baseball America came up with a sneaky way for the club to make more off of the superstar pitcher.
- The Rangers are doing significant background work on Tanaka, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Texas has room for just one significant expenditure, which could slow their movement on Shin-Soo Choo, Passan adds.
- It's odd to see setup men Boone Logan and Joe Smith get more guaranteed money than established closer Grant Balfour, even if it's over three years rather than two, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Balfour agreed to a two-year, $15MM deal with the Orioles earlier today.
- The Yankees' last couple of signings would suggest that they seriously intend to get under the $189MM threshold, so a surprise victory for Alex Rodriguez in his battle would hurt the club quite a bit, Heyman tweets.
- The Rockies are looking for a bench player, but it's not a priority, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post (Sulia link).
Now that the Winter Meetings are over, here are the top ten remaining free agents from Tim Dierkes' Top 50 list, with updates on each.
3. Shin-Soo Choo. The acquisitions of Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran by the Yankees, Curtis Granderson by the Mets and Corey Hart and Logan Morrison by the Mariners have helped define the market for Choo. One report recently indicated he Rangers had a seven-year offer on the table. Not everyone agreed, but in any case, the Rangers remain interested. The Astros, Diamondbacks and Reds do not appear to be in the mix. The Tigers could be another possibility, although ESPN's Jerry Crasnick recently wrote that their acquisition of Rajai Davis ruled them out.
5. Masahiro Tanaka. Tanaka's status will likely become clearer once an agreement on the posting system is ratified tomorrow. If Rakuten decides to post Tanaka, the Diamondbacks could be serious suitors, as could the Cubs. Tanaka is also the Yankees' "top choice." The Dodgers might also be a possibility, but their interest doesn't appear to be as strong as expected.
6. Ervin Santana. The Tigers are reportedly interested in Santana, and the Diamondbacks have met with his agent. The Mets probably dropped out of the race when they agreed to terms with Bartolo Colon. The Yankees do not appear to be interested.
7. Matt Garza. Unlike Santana, Garza didn't receive a qualifying offer, which may improve his market, since teams won't have to worry about losing a draft pick. The Angels and Twins have been connected to Garza, although Angels GM Jerry Dipoto says his team doesn't have an offer out for Garza, and the Twins don't want to give Garza a four- or five-year deal. The Diamondbacks have repeatedly been connected to Garza, and Arizona could be a good landing spot, particularly if the D'Backs don't come up with Tanaka or Santana.
9. A.J. Burnett. The Pirates still believe Burnett is deciding between re-signing with them or retiring, although the Orioles have shown interest, and Burnett's offseason home is in Maryland. It's been almost two months since Burnett said he would take "a week or so" to decide whether to continue playing or retire.
11. Ubaldo Jimenez. The Indians want Jimenez to return, but it's unclear whether they'll make a big enough commitment to re-sign him. The Orioles might also be a possibility. Note that the last five names on this list are pitchers -- with Tanaka unable to sign, Burnett a question mark, and David Price and Jeff Samardzija looming on the trade market, the free-agent market for pitching has been slow to develop.
14. Stephen Drew. Drew and Jhonny Peralta were the only big names on the shortstop market, and Peralta has already signed with the Cardinals, so Drew is a huge fish in a tiny pond. The Yankees need a second baseman after Robinson Cano and Omar Infante signed elsewhere, and a return to the Red Sox would still make sense, with Drew at shortstop and Xander Bogaerts at third. The Mets don't seem to be serious contenders.
17. Nelson Cruz. Cruz rejected a qualifying offer and is reportedly looking for a deal that pays $16MM or more a year, which may be a lot to player with limited defensive ability and scary offensive indicators. Cruz wants the Rangers to offer a three-year deal, but so far, they're only offering two. The Mariners continue to be connected to Cruz, even after adding Corey Hart and Logan Morrison.
23. Bronson Arroyo. Four teams have reportedly offered Arroyo two-year deals, but Arroyo, like Cruz, seems to be holding out for three. The Twins are still a possibility even after their signings of Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes and their re-signing of Mike Pelfrey. The Mets and Reds are contenders as well.
25. Grant Balfour. The Indians just agreed to terms with John Axford, and Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports noted (via Twitter) that one likely scenario for the rest of the bullpen market had Joaquin Benoit going to the Padres and Balfour heading to the Orioles. The Boston Herald's Jen Royle, meanwhile, reports that the Orioles have offered Balfour a three-year deal, but Balfour wants three years with a vesting option (Twitter links). In any case, the Orioles look like Balfour's most serious suitors by far right now, although Royle suggests the Mariners could also come into play.
The Astros aren't likely to sign Shin-Soo Choo, Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle argues. They don't want to sacrifice the draft pick they'd have to give up in order to sign him (even though their top overall pick is protected). They might do so if Choo's price were low enough, but at this point, there's no reason to think Choo won't be very highly paid, which means that the Astros, interested though they are in adding big-league talent to a team that lost 111 games last year, probably won't be serious players. Drellich also notes that the Astros probably only have about $10MM left to spend for 2014, and want to add a first baseman and reliever with that money. Also, even acquiring a player of Choo's caliber wouldn't make the 2014 Astros a contending team. Signing Masahiro Tanaka would make more sense, Drellich argues, since Tanaka is only 25 and wouldn't cost a draft pick.
- The Astros were interested in James Loney, who would have filled a need (first base) and is from the Houston area, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports (via Twitter). Ultimately, though, Loney wanted too much money from the Astros, McTaggart says. He re-signed with the Rays for three years and $21MM.
- The Astros have not discussed the possibility of trading for Mike Carp with the Red Sox, Drellich tweets. Drellich also indicates that the Red Sox would seek a big return for Carp.
The Rangers made headlines today by selecting Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson in the minor league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. Before going on to NFL stardom, Wilson was selected by the Rockies as a second baseman in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, and Colorado retained its rights to Wilson until this morning. Wilson will report to Spring Training and talk to the Rangers' minor leaguers in a motivational capacity. "We decided if he ever wanted to play again, he'd be a guy that we'd want with us," Texas assistant GM A.J. Preller told reporters, including MLB.com's Richard Justice. The Wilson selection isn't a gimmick, ESPN's Richard Durrett writes, and Jon Daniels is excited to have Wilson's winning qualities in the organization, though Daniels stressed that the club isn't trying to distract Wilson from his NFL goals. Here's more out of the AL West...
- Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz remain unsigned, which is good news for the Rangers, ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett writes. The Rangers like both players and are hoping that their asking prices drop the longer they stay on the market. Daniels said that his team's pursuit of Choo was "unchanged" from yesterday.
- There is a chance that Michael Young could rejoin the Rangers if both parties see a fit, MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez tweets. Texas dealt its longtime franchise staple to the Phillies last offseason and Young was subsequently dealt to the Dodgers in August.
- Despite recent rumors linking the Angels to Matt Garza and Raul Ibanez, general manager Jerry Dipoto told reporters (including Bill Shaikin of the L.A. Times) that his team doesn't have any outstanding offers to free agents.
- In a special piece for FOX Sports, new Mariners first baseman/outfielder Logan Morrison wrote about the experience of being traded to a new team. Morrison's piece is particularly fascinating in that it was written prior to the trade that sent him to Seattle. LoMo says he doesn't have any ill feelings toward the Marlins organization, adding that contrary to public opinion, owner Jeffrey Loria was "great and generous" to Morrison and his family. Loria allowed Morrison and his family to use his personal plane to get to Kansas City for the funeral of Morrison's father.
- The Astros spoke to the Marlins about Morrison and also pursued Corey Hart and Mike Morse, MLB.com's Brian McTaggart reports. Jose Veras rejected the Astros' initial contract offer but the two sides still share a mutual interest in a reunion.
- The Yankees, Indians, Braves, Phillies, Blue Jays, Twins and Indians were all involved in trade talks for Brett Anderson before the Athletics sent the right-hander to the Rockies, writes Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle.
MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post
As of yesterday, it appears that the Mariners, Diamondbacks and Reds are all out of the market for Shin-Soo Choo. Here's the latest on the top remaining free agent position player...
- One veteran general manager told Bob Nightengale of USA Today that he thinks the Astros will ultimately be Choo's landing spot (Twitter link).
- Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (via Twitter) that the Rangers appear comfortable going to five years for Choo, but agent Scott Boras wants a seven-year deal. Morosi wonders if they can meet in the middle.