When Chris Antonetti officially becomes the Indians GM this offseason, he'll probably consider extending Shin-Soo Choo. It would mean working with agent Scott Boras on a multi-year deal and while that may sound intimidating, there's precedent for this kind of contract. Early in 2009, Prince Fielder, another Boras client, signed a two-year deal that bought out a pair of his arbitration seasons.
Choo will be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason and Boras has hinted that he'd be open to a multi-year deal. Boras clients, Fielder included, aren't generally easy to sign long-term, so the Indians may have trouble locking Choo up beyond his three arbitration seasons. Here's a look ahead to a potential three-year deal between the Indians and their right fielder.
Let's start by estimating what Choo would make if the Indians don't extend him. Three other outfielders (none of them super twos) match up reasonably well with Choo if you compare his stats to what they had accomplished heading into their first arbitration seasons. B.J. Upton ($3MM), Josh Willingham ($2.95MM) and Ryan Ludwick ($3.7MM) all signed deals worth $3MM or so for their first arbitration seasons.
You could make the case, as Boras may, that Choo has accomplished more than any of those three players at comparable stages in their careers. When you compare Choo to the other three players in home runs, RBI, runs, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage and steals, it becomes apparent that the Indians outfielder has a strong case to earn over $3MM next year. Upton beats Choo in steals and runs scored, but loses in every other category; Willingham loses to Choo in every category but home runs and Ludwick loses in every category but home runs and slugging percentage.
Choo's defense is also strong; he has a 7.7 UZR this season and leads all MLB outfielders in assists with 13. He was among the top ten MLB outfielders in assists last year and consistently gets to more balls than most AL right fielders. He doesn't head into arbitration with quite the same platform year that Ludwick did, but Choo will be coming off a second consecutive 20 homer, 20 steal season. A $3.5MM payday in 2011 seems within reach.
If Choo is making $3-4MM next year and is set to receive raises in 2012 and 2013, the Indians would likely have to be prepared to spend considerably to sign Choo for the next three seasons. Antonetti could go year to year, especially if it looks like Choo will have to serve in the South Korean military, but if the Indians do sign their right fielder for the next three years, it probably won't be for less than $20MM.
Nick Markakis, who signed a long-term extension with the Orioles after the 2008 season, then had remarkably similar numbers to the ones Choo has now. Markakis, who also has a strong throwing arm and plays right field, edges Choo in average, runs and homers, but Choo has more RBI and steals and better on base and slugging averages. Markakis' extension could be a model for Cleveland and he will earn $20MM for his three arbitration seasons.