Shin-Soo Choo Rumors
The Pirates' failure to sign Mark Appel with the eighth overall selection in the 2012 draft created a ripple effect where the Mets passed on free agent Michael Bourn and eventually gave playing time to rookie Juan Lagares, writes Joel Sherman of the New York Post. As compensation for not coming to terms with Appel, the Pirates were awarded the ninth overall pick in this past June's draft, knocking the Mets' choice (11th) out of the protected Top Ten. This was an important considersation for the Mets in deciding to not bid on Bourn, explains Sherman, who cites this as a pefect example of "sometimes the best moves are the ones you don't make." Here's news from other NL teams who aren't neccessarily going to follow that old adage:
- Ex-Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette of MLB Network Radio (via Bowden on Twitter) he wants to continue managing and is open to all opportunities, including the Nationals.
- In that same interview (also from a Bowden tweet), Manuel says the Phillies' plan is to "reload," not "rebuild," needing regular players to fill holes, including adding a starter, and redoing the bullpen.
- Speaking of the Phillies, little has changed with the radio silence regarding their agreement with Cuban right-hander Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez, according to MLB.com's Todd Zolecki, who reported earlier this month the two sides have hit a snag in finalizing their six-year, $48MM deal.
- Dodgers manager Don Mattingly told reporters, including Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, they will have a better idea at the end of today when Brian Wilson will be activated. GM Ned Colletti was a guest of Bowden and Duquette on MLB Network Radio and said the call should be made in "another day or two" (as quoted by Gurnick's colleague, Andrew Simon). Colletti also explained he signed Wilson because he only cost money, not prospects, and there's a familiarity with him from his days as the Giants' closer. "We think it's a very low-risk, high-reward situation," said Colletti. "He wanted to be here. He has a home in L.A. Rivalry and all that aside -- we all know what that's all about -- he wanted to restart his career and we're going to give him that opportunity here in the near future."
- Four years and $60MM is the guess as to the asking price of Reds centerfielder Shin-Soo Choo in free agency this winter, tweets the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay. Choo placed fifth in MLBTR's most recent 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
- The Pirates have scouted Cuban first baseman Jose Dariel Abreu in three recent international tournaments and will be on hand for his expected September showcase, reports Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "We like him," GM Neal Huntington said. "It will be interesting to see where the bidding goes." That bidding could exceed $60MM.
Shin-Soo Choo has been even better than the Reds expected in the early going, and as the projected second-best free agent on the market, the natural question is whether the Reds will try to sign him. Reds GM Walt Jocketty reluctantly addressed the topic, telling MLB.com's Mark Sheldon:
"I hate to even address it. We got him with the idea we would get him for the year and then try to develop [Billy] Hamilton to play next year. If we're in a position where we think we can sign Choo, it's a big bonus for us. Would we love to? Absolutely. But we have to really look and see where our financial revenues and financial projections of future revenues are. It's still a little early to do that." Jocketty admitted, "There's not a lot to spare, I can tell you that."
If the Reds allow Bronson Arroyo to leave, they might just be able to squeeze Choo in while keeping a payroll in the $110MM range, if he'd accept a somewhat backloaded contract. That includes some back of the napkin arbitration calculations on my part. There are always ways to find a few million bucks, though.
Choo has mostly deflected questions to date about his upcoming free agency. Talking to Sheldon, Choo didn't add much, but he did note, "I want to stay in the same area for a long time -- wherever it is. Kids need their dad. It's hard in the baseball season -- you spend six months away by yourself, and six months you get together in the offseason. I want to stay in one area. But I'm not thinking about it. I'm not thinking about teams or cities."
If Choo keeps playing like an All-Star, there's little doubt his free agent contract will be one of the longer ones of the 2013-14 offseason. Still, guarantees of four-plus years are hard to come by in free agency. Only eight were given to free agents last offseason. Of those, only three were for a player entering his age 31 or later season: Josh Hamilton for five years, Nick Swisher for four, and Angel Pagan for four. If long-term security is a key for Choo, perhaps he can sacrifice a bit on his salary to ensure that fifth guaranteed year. Swisher and Michael Bourn were not able to get it, instead settling for vesting options from the Indians.
"That's too far away," Shin-Soo Choo told Tyler Kepner of the New York Times in reference to questions about the Reds outfielder's future. Choo, 30, is eligible for free agency after the season, the rare quality player who has resisted multiyear offers and simply compiled his six years of service. He is currently tied for the MLB lead with 36 runs scored, and he's third with a .455 on-base percentage. The early success has elevated Choo to the #2 spot on our 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings, behind only Robinson Cano.
Agent Scott Boras was quick to sing his client's praises, commenting to Kepner, "The amazing thing about his career is that he’s been hidden. Even in an off-year, his on-base percentage is .350. He’s got a career .386 on-base percentage and an O.P.S. that’s .856. Go around the league and find an outfielder who has, essentially, 15-homer power and an .850 O.P.S. Couple that with a .290 average — that’s rare air." Choo's career OPS ranks 26th among active players and fifth among active outfielders. Ryan Braun, Matt Holliday, and Josh Hamilton are locked up, while Carlos Beltran will turn 37 early in his next contract.
The one knock on Choo has been his struggles against left-handed pitching. He batted .239/.329/.318 against them from 2010-12, with the worst of it coming last year. Through 212 plate appearances this year, Choo's splits have been even more extreme. He's hitting .368/.510/.684 with nine home runs in 151 plate appearances against righties, and .146/.317/.188 in 61 plate appearances against lefties. Choo has been below-average defensively this year in center field. He's naturally a corner outfielder, but it remains to be seen if he can play average defense once he returns to right field.
The Mets should make a strong attempt to sign Choo after the season, suggests Kepner, and when asked about the possibility by John DeMarzo of the New York Post, Choo at least wouldn't rule it out. Of course, as with most free agents, Choo's next contract will cover post-prime years, perhaps age 31-35. With Boras doing the negotiating, we can't rule out a sixth year or a salary in the $18-20MM range, plus the loss of a draft pick. The last thing the Mets need is another large, regrettable contract just as those of Johan Santana and Jason Bay expire; the big question is whether Choo will age gracefully.
Brewers GM Doug Melvin indirectly shed some light on the philosophical differences which led to trading Brett Lawrie to the Blue Jays. Lawrie's name came up when Melvin told Michael Hunt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel the plan is to keep second base prospect Scooter Gennett in Triple-A for the full season instead of being promoted because of the struggles of Rickie Weeks. "The plan worked for (Prince) Fielder and Corey Hart and all those guys," Melvin said. "Spend your time at each level. That's the part I couldn't get through with Brett Lawrie. He wanted to go past everybody. That model works if you're a freak like Ryan Braun, but he did play at every level. I always say to go out and prove you're too good for the league. If you do that, we'll consider moving you up." Instead Melvin, moved Lawrie out to Toronto. In other news from the the NL Central:
- Brewers manager Ron Roenicke told reporters, including MLB.com's Adam McCalvy, there is no plan to send Corey Hart, recovering from right knee surgery, on a minor league rehab assignment before June 1. This means Hart, who is eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on May 30, will not join the Brewers until mid-June, at the earliest.
- The number of years and not money will be the issue for the Reds in trying to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo, tweets John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. Choo ranks second on MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings.
- If Choo does re-sign with Cincinnati, a payroll casualty could be Bronson Arroyo. In a second tweet, Fay says the Reds' payroll is a big puzzle and there are lots of factors involved in trying to retain both Choo and Arroyo.
- Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opines merit is not behind the Cardinals' decision to replace the injured Jaime Garcia with fellow left-hander Tyler Lyons, but a desire to delay the service clock of their top pitching prospect, Michael Wacha. This is the second time Wacha, owner of an 1.89 ERA in eight Triple-A starts, has been bypassed to fill a rotation opening. Miklasz further believes the Cardinals, owners of the best record in the National League, don't have the best 25 players in their system on the active roster citing top prospect Oscar Taveras toiling away in Triple-A while Shane Robinson and Ty Wigginton are struggling offensively.
- Cardinals GM John Mozeliak disagrees with Miklasz's assessment. "I’m not worried about the clock," Mozeliak was quoted as saying by the Post-Dispatch's Derrick Goold (via Sulia). "The media is making a lot of the clock. Other people who read the media are making more of it. To me it’s like that’s not what is making our decisions. It’s managing our decisions for what’s best for the club and what’s best for the individuals in their own silo of development."
- Chris Carpenter is continuing to make progress in his recovery from nerve trouble in his neck and back soreness and could make a rehab start in early June, Goold reports. "I’m not going to push myself back," Carpenter said (as quoted by Goold on Sulia). "I’m going to make sure that I’m healthy and that I know everything is going to work and that I can go out there and take that grind of the amount of pitches and innings it takes to go the rest of the year." Carpenter threw three simulated innings Saturday, will throw a side session Monday, and throw another four simulated innings Thursday, according to MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch and Chad Thornburg.
The Twins are piecing together a "promising future," and Miguel Sano, who is hitting .362/.457/.681 for Class A+ Fort Myers, is a key part of that, argues ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider-only). Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, has also played brilliantly in the minors, hitting .331/.436/.574 for Class A Cedar Rapids. Minor-league pitchers Kyle Gibson and D.J. Baxendale have performed well, too. Olney cites Peter Gammons' comparison of the Twins to the 2007-2008 Texas Rangers, who were about to emerge as an AL powerhouse. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Mark Reynolds, who is batting .263/.353/.564 this season, could be hitting his way out of the Indians' price range for 2014, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. If Reynolds keeps hitting, the only way he'll still be in Cleveland in 2014 is if the Indians sign him to a contract extension before he hits free agency. Ocker also suggests that the Indians should sign Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis to multi-year deals.
- Yan Gomes' play makes the offseason trade that brought Gomes and Mike Aviles to the Indians for Esmil Rogers look like "a steal," MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes (on Twitter). Gomes has hit .273/.283/.545 for the Indians this season, and Aviles has also been productive. Rogers' meanwhile, has struggled out of the Blue Jays' bullpen.
- The Reds would like to keep Shin-Soo Choo beyond this season, Ken Rosenthal says in a video at FOXSports.com. Choo has hit .314/.462/.569 this year, however, and Rosenthal notes that the thought of shopping a hot-hitting outfielder on the free agent market this winter must be tempting to Scott Boras, who represents Choo.
In case there are still any questions whether the Nationals' Bryce Harper can continue to adjust to big league pitching as it attempts to adjust to him, this story from Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post may put them to rest. Harper recalls that he began developing a flexible approach at the plate when, as a seven year-old playing in an under-10 tournament, the opposition decided it was too dangerous to give him an inside fastball. Kilgore goes on to explain in detail the development of Harper's swing, and why it is so effective at such a young age. Here are some notes from the Nats and a few of their National League competitors:
- While Nationals starter Dan Haren seems to be turning his season around, Carlos Marmol of the Cubs continues to struggle. As Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times writes, the Cubs not only missed out on adding a starter to bolster their rotation, but could have flipped Haren for a nice haul at the trade deadline. Of course, the Cubs were apparently close to acquiring Haren before the Angels declined his option and made him a free agent.
- The Phillies should try to trade first baseman Ryan Howard, says David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Looking at the team's free agent options next year, Murphy says there is not much promise for the Phils to improve unless it sheds one of its nine players that stand to make a combined $115MM next season. While acknowledging the limits of Howard's trade value, Murphy posits that the club should agree to eat much of his salary and attempt to obtain a young infielder.This may not be the most promising proposal, however, as Howard's injury history and mediocre start to 2013 (.262/.299/.476 over 137 plate appearances) keep his value down even before looking at his contract.
- Meanwhile, Murphy's Inquirer colleague Bob Vetrone laments that two former Phillies are having an impact elsewhere. Both Shane Victorino and Hunter Pence were traded mid-season last year after the Phillies fell out of contention, and both are off to productive starts this season. Meanwhile, the Phils' outfielders have been among the worst in baseball. On the other hand, those deals brought much needed youth into the Phillies' organization, including two prospects (Tommy Joseph and Ethan Martin) ranked by some in the club's top 15.
- The Mets could make sense as a destination for Shin-Soo Choo when the outfielder reaches free agency this offseason, explains John Harper of the New York Daily News. Choo is currently sitting at third on MLBTR's Tim Dierkes's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings after his hot start for the Reds. According to one big league executive, Choo fits the profile that Mets GM Sandy Alderson will be looking for as a high on-base outfielder with some pop. Certainly, an outfield upgrade is in order for the Mets, as the combined production from Mets outfielders currently rates right alongside that of the Phillies.
The latest links from the NL Central...
- Pirates manager Clint Hurdle deserves to keep his job, but hasn’t yet earned an extension in the view of Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. The Pirates have officially extended Hurdle, a move that “seems unnecessary” to Morosi given the Pirates’ late-season struggles in 2011-12.
- Talent evaluators are doubtful Shin-Soo Choo can provide average center field defense, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com reports. Bowden, the former GM of the Reds, suggests Jay Bruce would shift to center field if Choo struggles. The Reds acquired Choo from the Indians in a three-team trade earlier this winter.
- Alex Gonzalez has played 13,207 2/3 innings of defense at the MLB level, and all of them have been at shortstop. Yet Gonzalez could play at first base this year, Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports. The Brewers, who signed Gonzalez to a one-year deal earlier this month, have two injured first basemen in Corey Hart and Mat Gamel. Manager Ron Roenicke said he hopes Gonzalez embraces a utility role with the team. “If he’s wanting to play a long time, then he needs to be a utility man that can play all positions,” Roenicke said.
Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio predicts Kyle Lohse will sign with either the Brewers or Rangers as one of five moves which will happen this spring (Insider subscription required). Bowden also sees extensions for Adam Wainwright and Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Here's the other Senior Circuit news and notes from the first Sunday of Spring Training:
- Count the Phillies out as suitors for Lohse as GM Ruben Amaro Jr. is prepared to go with the staff he has in camp, according to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com.
- Lohse will only become of interest to the Cardinals if their rotation candidates aren't panning out during Spring Training, writes CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman in a piece outlining six reasons why the Redbirds remain playoff contenders.
- One reason for the Cardinals making the postseason in three of the last four years is being ranked as one of the NL's top four teams in terms of innings pitched by the starting rotation, according to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Goold notes this year’s rotation is set to include four starters, beyond Wainwright, who combined have just one 190-inning season.
- The Mets could use catcher John Buck as trade bait once they promote Travis d'Arnaud in the opinion of ESPNNewYork.com's Adam Rubin, who cites the precedent of when David Wright took over at third base.
- Bill Madden of the New York Daily News cautions the Mets to be prudent with their newfound financial flexibility if they dive into next year's free agent outfield pool. Madden lists Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo, and Hunter Pence (all ranked in the top ten of MLBTR's 2014 Free Agent Power Rankings) as possible targets.
4:38pm: Choo obtains a $7.375MM salary for 2013, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has learned (Twitter link). That's the midpoint between the sides' filing numbers.
3:31pm: The Reds announced that they avoided arbitration with outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, agreeing to a one-year deal for 2013 (Twitter link). The Boras Corporation represents Choo, who will hit free agency following the 2013 season.
Choo filed for $8MM in arbitration with the Reds countering at $6.75MM, as MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker shows. Two of the five unsigned arbitration eligible players are Reds: Mat Latos and Homer Bailey. MLBTR's look at Arbitration Basics simplifies what can be a complicated process.
Many players will avoid arbitration today, and dozens of others exchanged figures with their teams in anticipation of hearings. Most cases won't go to arbitration hearings, but teams such as the Rays, Marlins, Blue Jays and Braves are known for their 'file and trial' policies. For players on those teams this marks the last chance at negotiations before a hearing.
MLBTR's Arbitration Tracker will keep you up to date on every one of the filing numbers from around the game, but here are the highlights -- players who filed for $4MM or more. Now for the details...
- Clayton Richard filed for $5.55MM while the Padres offered $4.905MM, according to CBSSports.com.
- Martin Prado filed for $7.05MM while the Braves countered with $6.65MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Sergio Romo filed for $4.5MM and the Giants countered at $2.675MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Max Scherzer filed at $7.4MM and the Tigers offered $6.05MM, Heyman reports (on Twitter).
- Jason Hammel filed at $8.25MM and the Orioles offered $5.7MM, Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports (on Twitter). Jim Johnson filed at $7.1MM and the Orioles countered at $5.7MM.
- Homer Bailey filed at $5.8MM and the Reds filed at $4.75MM, Heyman tweets.
- Jordan Zimmermann filed at $5.8MM and the Nationals offered $4.6MM, Heyman tweets.
- Dexter Fowler filed at $5.15MM with the Rockies offering $4.25MM, Heyman tweets
- Shin-Soo Choo filed at $8MM and the Reds offered $6.75MM, Heyman tweets.
- Chase Headley filed for $10.3MM with the Padres countering at $7.075MM, Heyman tweets.
- Mat Latos asked for $4.7MM and the Reds offered $4.15MM, Heyman tweets.
- Jason Motte filed at $5.5MM and the Cardinals offered $4.5MM, Heyman tweets.
- David Murphy filed at $6.5MM and the Rangers offered $5.05MM, Heyman tweets.