"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.