Rangers sign Shin-Soo Choo to 7 year, $130 million deal
The deal comes shortly after Choo declined a $140 million deal with the Yankees. There has been speculation as to why, most of it believing that no state income taxes in Texas will close much of the gap between the offers. There's also the belief that the Rangers are closer to contention than the Yankees, who are full of questions and don't appear to have an actual plan.
For the Rangers, the plan seems more cut-and-dried. The plan is to start Choo in a corner outfield spot in place of Nelson Cruz and stick him at the top of the lineup. Choo has developed into the one of the more reliable on-base providers in the game today, peaking last year in Cincinnati with a .285/.423/.462 line. That OBP was helped by a league leading 26 hit by pitches, but Choo also drew 112 walks last year, by far a career high. Having Choo leading off gives Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre someone to drive in, a further boost to an offense that ranked 7th in the AL in scoring in 2013. Also helping Choo's value will be him moving back to a corner spot, likely left field with Alex Rios in right and Leonys Martin in center. The Reds put him in center out of necessity, but it was clear early that Choo was out of his depth there. The one negative though is Choo's inability to hit lefties. For his career, he's crushed righties to the tune of a .932 OPS. Against lefties that number falls to .680. It was even more pronounced this year: 1.011 OPS vs. right-handers and .612 vs. lefties.
As for the contract, it's another long-term deal that has the potential to be a disaster, as it will pay Choo an AAV for about $18.5 million until his age 37 season. Of course the Rangers are playing for now as they try to keep their window open after two straight World Series losses followed by two straight disastrous Septembers. As they stand, the Rangers look to have one of the better rosters, but the A's aren't going away, and maybe the Angels high priced talent and the Mariners crazy offseason moves will get them back in the hunt. Choo is unlikely to repeat his truly stellar OBP from this season, but even taking that year out, his career line is .289/.381/.465. After having Tommy John surgery early in his career, the only other major injury Choo has suffered was a broken thumb on a hit by pitch (which admittedly is a risk given how many plunks Choo takes). The Rangers are betting as the contract goes on that Choo's decline will be fairly gradual, and it helps that the contract ends at 37 and not in the 40s like others. Overall, it's a reasonable gamble and gives Texas the last real hitting prize in this year's free agency market.