Reports are coming in early Saturday morning that outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has agreed to a seven-year deal worth $130 million with the Texas Rangers. The deal marks a return to the AL West where the former Seattle Mariners’ prospect began his career.

Choo boasts a career line of .288/.389/.465 and was expected to receive more than $100 million as a free agent this offseason. Despite a poor career split versus left-handed pitching and poor defensive showings the last couple seasons, the 31-year old is an OBP machine who carries twenty plus home run power and plenty of pop, not to mention a great arm that should benefit with a move back to right field and the ability to steal a handful of bases too. Early projections like Choo to contribute around his career norms in 2014 which would represent a 3+ fWAR season for the newest Ranger.

The Mariners were rumored to be interested in Choo throughout the offseason, but found his price tag to be too hefty and were more interested in adding a right-handed bat to a very leftt-handed heavy lineup. The New York Yankees reportedly offered Choo $140 million over seven-years but that offer was turned down. While the South Korean native may not be the first player teams would like to pay close to $20 million annually, there’s no question he adds definite improvement to the Rangers’ squad and still would’ve been a significant upgrade to the Mariners.

First and foremost, the Mariners’ dreams of competing in the AL West in 2014 took another hit today as the Rangers will feature one of baseball’s most potent lineups.

Alongside the addition of Price Fielder, Texas will have a lot of new life in their lineup, especially towards the top of the order. It’s hard to know exactly what to expect from the young Jurickson Profar as he embarks on his first full season in the majors, but his potential emergence would easily offset the loss of Ian Kinsler and possibility make the team even better up the middle. If the Rangers can get good pitching performances and manage to stay relatively healthy, there’s no doubt they’ll be a powerhouse in the AL West.

If there’s one thing the Mariners can take solace in with Choo wearing Rangers’ colors, it’s that this signing all but removes the Rangers from the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes should the right-hander be posted. With the new posting system agreed upon, even the subtraction of one potential suitor could make a world of difference for the Mariners. While it’s still up in the air as to whether or not the Rakuten Golden Eagles will post Tanaka, it’s conceivable that the Rangers are no longer likely suitors for the likes of Matt Garza or Ervin Santana if they’re out on the Japanese ace. Hopefully that’ll aid in the M’s pursuit of another rotation arm.

Perhaps the worst part of the Choo deal from the Mariners perspective is that Nelson Cruz appears to have only one real suitor left. It’s no secret that the Mariners’ community is largely opposed to a potential Cruz signing as the 33-year old is coming off a PED-suspension, is destined for a DH role, and is looking for at least a three year deal that will pay north of $15 million annually. There’s more red flags on this player than there were thrown by NFL coaches during the referee lockout. The Rangers were said to have offered two years to Cruz, but he was holding out for a third guaranteed year.

As much as it pains me to say it, Cruz does offer what the Mariners desperately need; right-handed power. He’s far from an ideal fit in Seattle as the Mariners have already acquired two more DH/1B/LF types in Logan Morrison and Corey Hart this winter. Cruz can’t play center, although Choo couldn’t really either, and would see his value maximized if he received the bulk of his at-bats as a DH. The Mariners are far better off keeping the DH spot open so they can preserve Morrison and Hart’s knees while hopefully having someone much more defensively competent playing the field. Adding Cruz would appear to be a regurgitation of last offseason when the team acquired Mike Morse, Jason Bay, and Raul Ibanez; three players that shouldn’t have seen much time in the outfield.

Of course Ibanez wasn’t brought in to be the everyday left-fielder and he did manage to knock 29 long balls at age 41, but he still ended up playing 100 games in the outfield. Bay was coming off of a series of concussion-related injuries so his underperformance wasn’t completely unexpected, and Morse was coming off of a career year that he was unlikely to repeat anyways. The M’s should be far more concerned with adding a legitimate everyday outfielder to the fold even after bringing Franklin Gutierrez back into the picture.

Surely there’s a scenario where Cruz’s market becomes so saturated that the Mariners can sign him to a deal that’s completely on their terms. Perhaps that’d be something like two years and roughly $26 million, but that’s a case we’re unlikely to see unless Cruz is still unemployed in late January, but stranger things have happened before. There’s been some banter that the M’s could look to flip LoMo, or incumbent first-baseman Justin Smoak, but unless they do so, Cruz only further complicates the DH logjam and there’ll once again be someone spending far too much time roaming the confines of Safeco Field.

Maybe the Mariners benefit from the Choo deal if Tanaka gets posted and they’re able to sign him, but that’s really the only situation where the team can get substantially better after the Rangers added another key bat to their 2014 equation. While we still sit ten days removed from January, time and players are starting to run out for the Mariners to improve their roster with. Cruz, Garza, Matt Kemp, and David Price are all still out there representing upgrades for the Mariners’ 2014 ensemble.

There’s arguments for every team in the AL West being improved this winter and the M’s still have plenty of work ahead of themselves if they’re even remotely serious about competing in 2014.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

19 Comments

  1. Rasmus could also be a nice pick for the 2-hole. Lotsa pop in his bat and he posted a .338 OBP last season. Love to see the M’s bring him in so long as they get an extension done. He’s gonna be costly if he reaches free agency after a healthy 2014 season.

  2. Since the Mariners would be re-signing Morales, they won’t technically be losing a draft pick. If a different team were to sign him, then the M’s would receive a draft pick as compensation, but until that time comes, the Mariners aren’t in jeopardy if losing anything. You are correct that the compensation pick Morales is technically worth would offset the pick lost from the Cano signing.

  3. Franklin for Either plus we are paying the entire contract? No way. Smoak, okay, Saunders, maybe, Franklin not in a million years.

    Franklin is a very valuable piece, he is a top prospect that has shown he can handle his own in the bigs. I would expect our haul for Franklin to be another valuable young position player.

  4. The M’s need arms more than bats now. I’m thinking they are waiting on Tanaka before they make a move and that’s the way to go. If he’s posted I say mortgage the future and sign him, his six or so prime years are worth whatever it takes. If he’s not posted I’d go for Arroyo, only because he could possibly be signed to a two year deal and would eat some innings. Santana I don’t like and Jimenez is a risk too.

    Jeff Sullivan’s idea of trading for Ethier because he’s about as good as Choo given his cost is one I like. If we took his whole contract off the Dodgers they shouldn’t expect a big prospect haul. I’d give them Franklin, Smoak or Saunders – only one, their choice.

    If you have ESPN Insider there is a great article on Tanaka at http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/id/10154435/mlb-japanese-pitcher-masahiro-tanaka-worth-fuss
    Steve Wulf of ESPN and Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times have collaborated on this definitive article.

  5. Morales will also cost us a draft pick. If we don’t resign Morales, we’ll get a late first rounder that we forfeit for signing Cano. If we bring back Morales, we lose our second round pick. The nice thing about letting Morales walk Is that it offsets the pick we lose for Cano.

  6. The M’s certainly cannot match the Angels and Rangers bat for bat. They can and should put up an equal or better rotation. We have the power to improve the pitching staff now. They are going to have to try and find some upside bats/defense via trade. Show your stuff JZ.

  7. I see Corey Hart as someone who could split the DH job with Smoak or Morrison, but not really as an outfielder. I see him as more of a 1B and DH kind of guy. I guess they’ll see if his knees are OK for RF when it gets to be spring training time, but man…

    I don’t know that they would really want Cruz out in RF a whole bunch either because he is slow afoot and is not a good glove man, and it seems he is also more of a DH than an outfielder. And I see Morales as more of a DH than a first baseman.

    I think the best way to add another decent RH bat for the lineup, if that’s what they want, is by trade. I would forgo signing Cruz and use the money either for Tanaka (if he’s available) or for one of Garza or Jimenez. Then make a trade for a hitter, and hopefully be able to do it without having to trade away Paxton, Walker, Miller or Zunino. I think they could get a decent hitter who could play the outfield better than Hart (or Cruz) could, and that it might not cost them their best kids.

  8. Cruz and Morales are in similar situations. There just isn’t much market out there for either player, especially given they are tied to draft pick compensation. I don’t want either player, but if I had to choose one of them, I would take Morales and it isn’t even close…

  9. I’m far from a Cruz enthusiast, but I do believe that a scenario could exist. As it stands, the M’s would surrender a third round pick (I believe) to sign Cruz since they already lost one in the Cano signing. Consider that trading for a player like Kemp, who has more upside than Cruz but an argument could be made that the risk is similar with both players, would probably cost the M’s several good players. Is a trade of Franklin, Saunders, Mauer, and (insert bullpen arm here) for Kemp and whatever LA doesn’t pay of his contract a sound acquisition? If the Cruz market completely dries up and he costs, like I said, $12-13 million on a two year deal, I think there could be a fit provided the M’s move one of LoMo or Smoak to clear roster room.

    I hope that wasn’t an advocation for Cruz, I think Hart could be equally valuable at a fraction of the cost if things work out for him this year. The bottom line is that Cruz will get a deal before Spring Training, and it’ll likely carry more than $10 million annually and be for several years. It’s still December, a lot can happen.

  10. Is signing Nelson Cruz to ANY sized contract and losing a draft pick really worth it?!? Honestly? Anybody willing to answer that question for me?

  11. No Cruz. Regardless of the price, giving up a draft pick for him isn’t worth it. Besides, I think Saunders is likely to be as good as Cruz over the next two years. They are both ~2 win players. Saunders won’t hit as many homers. But he’s a good defensive player, great baserunner, still has some upside, and won’t be expensive for a while. Having he and Guti split time and limit his exposure to tough lefties is a better idea than Cruz.

    Why pay a ton and lose draft pick to sign an expensive, limited, aging player who isn’t even a clear upgrade over what we already have?

  12. 2 trades I would love to see happen and think could work out for all involed is to send smoak or morrison plus to the pirates for tobata and franklin to the jays for rasmus(only if they can extend him ) if not then gose.

    1 miller ss
    2 tobata rf
    3 cano 2b
    4 hart dh
    5 seager 3b
    6 smoak/morrison 1b
    7 rasmus cf
    8 zunino c
    9 ackley lf

    solid defense speed and power and sign another sp

  13. Though it hurts Choo was just wanting too much money. Could we have used him, of course. Hopefully we can get a decent OF without getting taken to the cleaners via a trade. The FA arena doesn’t look too strong. Getting Tanaka would be ideal but we definitely need another starting pitcher. It changes the landscape considerably if we push our limits to get him.

  14. Colby Rasmus, Coco Crisp and Brett Gardner are among the next off-season OF free agents. I’d rather wait and go with what we have than to sign Cruz. Even for just one or two seasons he’s going to cost us another draft pick. Given how Safeco plays against right-handed hitters (remember Beltre) why make them a priority? We have a few and some switch hitters. Z needs to remember how he loved lefties when he got here, there was a good reason for it. Rotation arms are our greatest need. I still have nightmares thinking about everyone after Felix and Kuma.

    Every team in the AL West has gotten better, even the Astros (they might even win more than 2 games against the Rangers next season). Our new players will help us stay up with the others a bit better but I think the real key to next season is going to be determined by how our young homegrowns perform,. If some of them don’t step up we’re screwed.

  15. Sign pitching and trade for a good center fielder.
    Offer Cruz a 1 year deal, which is about the only smart thing with Cruz. Sign one, I prefer two, of the top four SP free agents. If Tanaka becomes available, he’ll be a tough sign unless he wants to play in Seattle. Good pitching a always keeps you in games. Lousy fielding, aging outfielders who should be DHs – not so much. So JZ, build on strength and leave the DH/outfield alone until a decent deal for a CF comes along.

  16. I interpret Jack’s comments last week to mean that he isn’t going to do anything dumb with Cruz and Choo, etc.

    It seems like Cruz’s market will fall into the 3/ $45 range, which I’d be ok with. It’s not ideal, but also not going to cripple the team long term.

    Seattle will add a starting outfielder at some point, and he will be better than Corey Hart. They may be holding off on dealing Nick Franklin to make sure they have that role filled first.

    It seems to me that the new guy will likely be a RF, though if the right CF was available Saunders could play RF. Ackley should be locked into LF by now. Having Guti on board makes me a lot more comfortable starting Ackley and Saunders.

    I’m also OK with only adding one more SP. I think Erasmo is a capable #6/swing man. Looking to add another cheap arm wouldn’t hurt though. Maybe someone like Freddy Garcia.

    I’d also keep Smoak/LoMo around until Morales falls into our laps. I don’t see LoMo as being much more than a backup at this point. He’s an insurance plan at 1B and Hart is going to need semi-regular rest against RHP.

  17. Please Jack, just say no to Nelson Cruz! This reminds me of last offseason, where I thought trading for Morse was an incredibly stupid move, one I didn’t even want discussed! Then the next thing I knew we traded Jaso for him…

    If Jack signs Cruz, then it shows he just hasn’t learned, and there really is no hope for him.

    If you ignore his offensive numbers here at Safeco and outside of Arlington, you ignore his strikeouts and inability to get on base, you ignore his horrible defense, and PED suspension, you ignore his age and declining numbers, and ignore the makeup of our current roster, then don’t let the door hit you in the ass on your way out!!!

  18. This should put the m’s in the drivers seat for Cruz. 5 years 75 Mill? Any knowledge on when Rusney Castillo may get the go ahead to talk to teams about signing? He just defected Dec 13th and is a guy who could demand siliar money.

    Also will Itoi get posted? everything is so quiet on him because everyone is more curious about Tanaka.

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