Longtime big league veteran Shin-Soo Choo announced earlier this week (hat tip to Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News) that 2024 will be his final season in pro baseball. The 41-year-old Choo has played with the Korea Baseball Organization’s SSG Landers for the last three seasons, and he’ll spent one more year with the Landers before hanging up his cleats. Choo is essentially playing for free in 2024, as he re-signed with the Landers for a KBO-minimum salary and will donate the sum to charity.
“I decided it was time for me to put a period on my baseball journey that started in 2001,” Choo said in a team statement to the Korea Times and other outlets. “Since the 2024 season will be my last one, I want to show my gratitude to baseball fans, both at home and on the road, and give them long-lasting memories throughout the year.”
Choo hit .275/.377/.447 over 7157 plate appearances and 1652 games in the majors from 2005-20. A “professional hitter” type, Choo delivered a very solid 123 wRC+ over his 16 MLB seasons, always showing a knack for getting on base even in his less-successful seasons at the plate. Choo was also something of an underrated threat power-wise (218 home runs) and on the basepaths (157 steals in 212 chances), as he authored three 20-20 seasons during his big league career.
An international signing for the Mariners in 2000, Choo spent parts of his first two Major League campaigns in Seattle before being traded to Cleveland in July 2006. It was a shrewd acquisition for the Indians, as Choo went on to become a lineup fixture over seven seasons with the Tribe. However, as the team fell out of contention and Choo’s arbitration numbers began to increase, Cleveland dealt Choo to the Reds as part of a three-team, nine-player trade also involving the Diamondbacks in December 2012.
Choo’s lone season in Cincinnati was the best of his career, as he hit .285/.423/.462 with 21 homers and 20 stolen bases over 712 PA for a Reds team that reached the postseason. This great platform year led to a big free agent payday for Choo in the form of a seven-year, $130MM deal with Texas. Such a contract inevitably comes with high expectations, and unfortunately for both Choo and the Rangers, the deal didn’t really work out.
Between injuries and a declining glove, Choo’s value became entirely tied to his bat, and thus producing only good (111 wRC+) numbers in Texas wasn’t enough. Choo ended up generating only 7.5 fWAR over the length of that seven-year deal, and it didn’t help that the franchise as a whole went into a rebuild period during Choo’s tenure. After a pair of tough playoff losses to the Blue Jays in 2015-16, the Rangers didn’t post another winning record for the remaining four seasons of Choo’s deal.
After garnering only limited interest from big league teams during the 2020-21 offseason, Choo decided to head back to his native country and sign with the Landers (then known as the SK Wyverns). Since Choo had signed with the Mariners as an amateur, he had never played in the KBO League prior to 2021, and his homecoming has been a successful one. Choo has hit .259/.391/.427 over his three seasons with the Landers, and the team won the Korean Series in 2022.