Mariners and Rangers still looking to make a splash, lead race for OF Shin-Soo Choo
With players like Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury off the market, Choo is quite possibly the best free agent available right now. The South Korea-born outfielder enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career in 2013, finishing a career-high 12th in MVP voting. Choo batted .285 with 21 home runs, 54 RBI, 107 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases. While the batting average doesn't blow you away, his .423 on-base percentage (fourth highest in the MLB) does. Thanks to that great on-base percentage, the Reds used Choo as their leadoff hitter, which resulted in a low RBI total. Choo constantly topped 54 RBI over the previous five seasons with the Cleveland Indians, boasting a career-high of 90 in 2010.
Should the Mariners land Choo, they would have two huge upgrades (the other being Cano) in their lineup. No player with more than six at-bats batted higher than .277 for the Mariners last season - Choo and Cano both boasted a higher mark while also contributing in other areas.
If the Mariners want Choo in their lineup, however, they will have to hold off the Texas Rangers, who are considered the other "lead dog" for Choo. The Rangers are another team that made a huge splash this offseason, acquiring first baseman Prince Fielder in a trade with the Detroit Tigers. However, the Rangers still have some sizable holes in their outfield, particularly with Nelson Cruz testing free agency. They traded for Alex Rios during the 2013 season to man right field, but David Murphy batted .220 as the primary left fielder last season, and the team is looking for an upgrade there.
Choo's current asking price is in the range of Jacoby Ellsbury's seven-year, $153 million deal, which neither team is willing to pay at the moment. It is an interesting situation for Choo, as while he is not quite as productive on a per-game basis as Ellsbury, he has proven to be much more durable. Choo will have no problem netting a nine-figure deal, but something a little closer to $100 million is more likely than a contract in the $153 million range. Choo is sure to lower his asking price soon enough, and there is a solid chance that he ends up going to the team willing to shell out the most money.
If the Mariners and Rangers truly are the top two teams in the race for Choo, the 31-year-old outfielder's decision could have some serious implications on the American League. If he goes to the Mariners, a team that was pretty awful in 2013 could start to make some noise just a season later. If he goes to the Rangers, he'll bolster a lineup that already added one of the game's premier sluggers this offseason and ranked eighth in runs scored last season.
It is also worth noting that the Reds are holding out hope that they can re-sign Choo. The problem for the Reds is money, as they are unlikely to be able to compete in a bidding war that eclipses the $100 million mark. As of now, it's a long shot that they can reel Choo back in. If the Reds can trade second baseman Brandon Phillips, however, they would have a much better shot at signing Choo.