The Major League Baseball free agent market is razor thin this offseason. Among the better players available will be Shin-Soo Choo. Choo spent this year in Cincinnati playing center field and leading off for the Reds. He’s had a good year — his fWAR stands at 5.4 entering play Wednesday — and is a big reason why his club is headed for October baseball. Having said all that, he’s not worth $100 million.

CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman wrote Wednesday that Choo’s agent, the imitable Scott Boras, believes $100 million might be on the low end.

“As a custom of the industry, prognostications by executives this time of year are dramatically divergent from the real market,” Boras told Heyman. “I don’t think anyone correctly predicted what Jayson Werth or Carl Crawford got.”

Those are true words. Werth received $126 million over seven years from the Washington Nationals prior to the 2011 season. Crawford topped that with a 7-year, $142 million pact from the Boston Red Sox less than a week later. We’ll ignore the differences in the markets between December of 2010 and this coming offseason, but that still leaves us with plenty of reasons why Choo isn’t worth anywhere near $100 million — not that Werth or Crawford were “worth” what they ultimately received, either.

One hundred million dollars, or so, over, say, a six-year deal, is more than $16 million per season, which isn’t an exorbitant number in general terms. Here’s why it’s far too much for the former Seattle Mariners prospect and Cleveland Indians right fielder.

Choo, for the season, is batting .287/.424/.468 with 21 home runs and 20 stolen bases. His wOBA stands at .394, which ranks at No. 10 in all of baseball, and his wRC+ of 152 ranks No. 8. That’s all fine and dandy — and worth more than $16 million per season. There are rather enormous questions, however, as to whether or not Choo, who is 31, can continue to that pace well into his 30s.

The idea that he’s a centerfielder is a bad one — he’s an average corner defender and a well below-average glove in center — and he’s struggling as much as Justin Smoak versus left-handed pitching. Seriously, he’s as close to an automatic out versus southpaws right as is Brendan Ryan versus Jered Weaver. There are starting pitchers who have handled left-handers better — left=handed batting starting pitcher, too. The chance Choo is consistently dominant versus right-handers that he overcomes the deficiencies against lefties is minimal at best, and it’s clear he’s not figuring out things when a same-handed pitcher is on the mound. He’s a seven-year veteran. If he hasn’t found a way by now, he’s not going to do so.

Choo will get more money than what he’s worth, there’s little question about that. It’s a product of free agency, and always will be. To get the player to put a team over the top, said team often times has to overpay. Paying this player $100 million, however, would be insanity for any club, including those with tons of payroll space and a desperate need for offense and outfield help. This means you, Seattle Mariners. This means you, New York Mets.

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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.

26 Comments

  1. inthefade, I don’t believe calling someone a moron is appropriate. There are better ways to address a difference in opinion rather than calling someone a cruel name.

    Jason has created a wonderful site here for us to get information and to bounce thoughts and ideas off one another.

    This is just my opinion and maybe all of you disagree with me but I think we should try and be civil is postings.

    I’m 84 years old kids, long time reader here and finally signed up to post. 🙂

  2. Hunter Pence signing for 5/$90MM means Choo will most likely get a nine figure deal. He’s made the market for free agent outfielders.

    Jose Abreu is now free to sign with any major league team. It’s time to Show Him The Money!

    The Giants want Lincecum back, he’s not going to decide for a while. I hope they get him. Lincecum said. “I’ve still got time to think about this. It’s not a pressing thing for me, and I’ll make a decision when the time comes.”

    Wedgie says the team needs a veteran outfielder, veteran arm in the rotation and the bullpen. That makes more sense than some of his lineups.

    “There is a lot that money can’t buy,” Cano said. “When Mo [Mariano Rivera] was a free agent, if he went somewhere else, then what happened [Thursday] could not have happened for him. But you have to understand that this is a business. The Yankees are going to do what is best for them, and I am going to do what is best for me and my family.” When he finds out the Dodgers are cutting back now they have their big TV contract he’ll only have the Yankees to give him stupid money.

  3. Jason, you are a complete moron.

    “Choo is close to an automatic out versus southpaws”?

    Shin-Soo Choo(Career): .340OBP vs LHP, .372OBP vs LH Starter
    Shin-Soo Choo(2013): ..349OBP vs LHP, .351OBP vs LH Starter

    “The chance Choo is consistently dominant versus right-handers that he overcomes the deficiencies against lefties is minimal at best”?

    `08: .317 .413 .579 .992
    `09: .312 .406 .504 .910
    `10: .319 .433 .566 .999
    `11: .254 .347 .410 .757(Injury-riddled season)
    `12: .327 .403 .523 .926
    `13: .318 .457 .557 1.014

    Choo’s career wRC+ vs RHP(154) is higher than Miguel Cabrera’s(150).

    He’s even better than Cano offensively.
    *2013
    Choo: .393wOBA(10th in MLB), 151wRC+(9th in MLB)
    Cano: .383wOBA(17th in MLB), 141wRC+(18th in MLB)

    *Career
    Choo: .374wOBA, 135wRC+
    Cano: .368wOBA, 126wRC+

  4. Yes. Have 3 “player acquisition” pieces slated for next week. Probably Monday, Wednesday, Friday.

  5. If only Choo could hit lefthanded pitching.

  6. Jon Heyman at CBS Sports has weighed in with his take on the top free agents in this year’s class. While Cano is his number one and Ellsbury is number two, his number three choice is probably of interest to the Mariners. “Shin-Soo Choo, Reds, OF: With 85 walks and a .412 on-base percentage, figures only behind teammate Joey Votto in the NL, some may believe he’s a better leadoff man than Ellsbury — though many execs prefer to see him as an excellent right fielder rather than a below average center fielder. He does just about everything well (16 steals, 17 home runs) but may be better suited for right field. The Mets have been expected to be in there pitching — though they could also consider Ellsbury.” Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors Free Agent Profile: Curtis Granderson offers all of the relevant details of what Grandy has to offer to the discerning GM looking to build a contender in the coming off-season. He’s not a slam dunk resign for the now stingy Yankees and he’s worthy of consideration by most team looking for an outfield bat. A taste of what Adams lengthy profile has to offer.
    “The first thing that comes to mind with Granderson is power. After averaging 24 homers per season from 2006-10, Granderson exploded with a 41-homer campaign in his second season with that up with 43 long balls in 2012. While many will point to Yankee Stadium as the reason for his surge in power, it wasn’t all the ballpark. Granderson belted 47 homers at Yankee Stadium in 2011-12 but still went deep 37 times on the road. No one in baseball had more home runs from 2011-12 than Granderson, and his 30 homers against lefties in that span were also the most in baseball.
    He’s capable of playing all three outfield positions as a result of his good speed, though advanced defensive metrics soured on him in 2012. UZR and The Fielding Bible both like his glove-work in this season’s limited sample size, however, and he grades out as a positive defender for his career per both metrics. That speed also comes through on the base paths. Granderson is still a threat for double-digit stolen bases. He’s swiped seven bags in 55 games this season and is just stole 25 as recently as 2011.”

  7. We’ll see if he signs with an AL team. Besides, you don’t know what he does or doesn’t want. End of Story.

  8. With Choo he would be moved to Left Field I would think.

    As to Hart I am not sold that the Brewers want him back. They have 2 young OF’s and a couple players to take over at 1B. There really is no room there for him as I see it.

    I think Soto or Suxuki could be had at a decent price to back up Zunino and either one would be a huge asset.

    Young as a 4th OF would be good or defensive replacement kind of guy. That to me would say that Almonte would be in right or center field. Again i knwo he is not ideal. however he reminds me of a better De Aza and that is not to bad at all.

  9. If Choo was even average in center I could see a case being made.
    But given what he is out there, no thanks.
    I’d much rather see Jack pry someone like A.J. Pollock away from the Diamondbacks…but I think it’s a year too late–he’s already showing what he can do.

  10. That is crazy! It will be fun seeing the Dodgers and Yankees bid against each for his services. Don’t see how it will get anywhere near 300 million, but it will definitely be way more than the guy is worth. No thanks!

  11. Agreed on most fronts, but I think you’re missing one key thing about Choo: he absolutely CRUSHES right handed pitching. We’re not talking a normal platoon player here that’s merely good against opposite-handed pitchers. By wRC+ against RH over the last three years, Choo ranks fourth in all of baseball behind Cabrera, Votto, and Cano. Simply, he can be the best hitter in the lineup in the majority of games. I think $100 for Choo is perfectly reasonable, but he’d only make sense for the Mariners if they get a cheap RH centerfielder and put Choo in a corner (i.e. not getting Ellsbury).

  12. Now Cano wants a 10 year, $305 million contract. The madness continues.

  13. JAC- Will you also be running a ‘trade targets’ story with what you’d be willing to give up, as you did last year?

  14. Hart is willing to give a big discount to stay in Milwaulkee, so he’s probably not even in consideration, at this point.

  15. I though Hart could be an interesting platoon partner at 1B for Smoak. If he’s healthy (bug if), he’d be a good addition.

    I hope the M’s start taking advantage of platoons more.

  16. Why would McCann want to DH? He’ll get offers to be a full-time catcher. There are few guys out there who would accept being a DH, if they are able bodied. And, Zunino is the future, end of story.

  17. I don’t think Zunino has proved he is ready for full-time prime time. Splitting time with McCann would be a positive. McCann had shoulder surgery and DHing would help preserve his catching life. Once Zunino earned full time status, McCann could catch 2 times week. Plus the righty/lefty catching duo would be nice. I would like to be overloaded at a position for once instead of having a AAAA players or a young kid brought up too early, or a veteran on his last leg. Five years of McCann could not hurt the M’s, espeically compared with what they have brought in the last 5 years.

  18. Why wouldnt they bring in someone to help Zunino he has a ways to go on defense from what oi see aklot oif missed balls doesnt shift well hitting 210 yes he is young but your here you have to produce even if JZ brought you up 1/2 year to quick.

  19. I’ll get into the free market as a whole in a week or so. I do expect Chris Young’s option to be declined and he’s interesting for me one of my top “smart and fairly cheap” option I will be suggesting.

    Neither Hart nor Delmon interest me in the slightest, not even for $1 million.

    Nelson Cruz? As a DH, yes. Rather have Morales.

    Mark Reynolds could be another piece to a platoon puzzle. Reynolds and Smoak at first base could work.

  20. Jason-

    What about F/A we are not talking about. Delmon Young, Cory Hart, Nelson Cruz, Chris Young, Mark Reynolds, Alexi Casilla, Geovany Soto, Kurt Suzuki.

  21. Do the recent failures of the Angels and to a lesser degree the Blue Jays make teams think twice before throwing around crazy money on an aging free agent? I like Choo, and would be willing to overpay to get him, but no way I go more than three years with a 4th year option.

    What team would break the bank for Choo? Dodgers, Yankees, and Red Sox will have no interest. I guess it just takes one crazy owner with an itch to scratch for him to get his money, but I don’t see it.

    Boras is going to have to earn his money on this one, because I think Choo ends up signing for 3 or 4 years at 45 to 60 million.

  22. And, they aren’t going to bring in anyone to take playing time away from Zunino.

  23. I don’t know that there’s much chance McCann, a Georgia native, signs in Seattle.

  24. Jason
    How about Brian McCann to catch 4 times a week and ease the stress on the body by DHing. The 14 million you don’t pay Morales/Ibanez will help with the overpay to get McCann. Gives Zunino time to fit into the starting role, while gradually giving McCann more DH duties (could always play first if necessary). The M’s would have a solid player for a number of years, an all-star and silver slugger. At least he’d be a veteran on the roster for more that a year. Give the M’s a chance to find a few other proven veterans. Of course, the Georgia native would have to be talked into coming to Seattle. Thats Bones Buhner’s job because obvisiouly, we don’t have a GM capable of it. Or is this just a stupid pipe dream by a disgruntled fan?

  25. Yes, that may be the market — I doubt it gets to $100m in actuality, but … — but that doesn’t mean you pay it. If adding Choo polishes off your roster, maybe. But only then does spending that kind of money on a 31-year-old corner outfielder with severe platoon splits make any sense at all.

  26. Jason I agree,

    However that is the market now. Anyone who is of his caliber or even slightly lower is going to ask for that. Reason, I call it the Dodger spill off. Agents see that and use it as a guide. Much like that of the Yankees in the late 90’s and yearly 10’s. The bar has been raised wether they are worth it or not. 105 Mill for 6 years 17.5 a year till Choo he is almost 38. first 3-4 year you should get what it is worth(by todays prices) the next 2-3 years after that, your going to have it as a handcuff.

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