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.
Jason A. Churchill
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