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December 23, 2013

Transaction Analysis

Rangers Choose Choo

by R.J. Anderson and

TEXAS RANGERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart

Signed OF-L Shin-Soo Choo to a seven-year deal worth $130 million. [12/21]

As boring as last winter was for Rangers fans, Jon Daniels has atoned for it this offseason with two big splashes. First Daniels acquired Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler; now he lassos the best free-agent hitter available away from the Yankees for less raw money (though the deals are comparable after taxes are considered). Combined, Fielder and Choo are two of the league's top hitters against right-handed pitching, and among the most reliable on-base machines in the majors. Even last year, a relative disappointment for Fielder, he still reached base at a 36 percent clip.

While Fielder languished in Detroit, Choo flourished in Cincinnati. The Korea native embraced a move to center field and the leadoff position as warmly as one joining a new team and entering a contract year could. Along the way, he posted the second-best OBP in the National League, trailing only former teammate Joey Votto. Of course, there is something to be said for how Choo did it. Although he's always walked at a good rate and been struck by a fair number of pitches, last season he took both to new heights. In fact, his 26 HBP were the most since Chase Utley was pegged with 27 pitches in 2008.

The good new for the Rangers is, should Choo see his walk and hit-by-pitch rates regress, he can cover with other skills. Choo possesses one of the best all-around offensive games in the league, and has the ability to hit for better-than-norm batting averages and slugging percentages. Additionally, he's a threat to hit 20 home runs and swipe 20 bags in a season, something he's already done three times.

The questions then are not whether Choo will hit, but where he'll play and where he'll bat against left-handed pitching. Presumably Ron Washington plans on sliding Choo back to a corner position, likely left field, where his arm cancels out some of his range-based deficiencies. Unfortunately, hiding Choo's bat against southpaws is a tougher dilemma. It is perhaps worth noting that Choo's issues against lefties—he has a .241 multiyear True Average versus them—stem not from a poor OBP, but rather no proven ability to hit for average or power against same-side pitching. Given that Choo has still managed to get on base more than 33 percent of the time, it's possible the Rangers suck it up and play him daily anyway.

There is risk here that the final year or two won't be pretty. That's the case with every seven-year deal, however. What's more concerning is what the Rangers will do in three or four years' time, should both Choo and Fielder's gloves demand the DH spot. That's a possibility Daniels and the Rangers have likely thought about already. For now, Choo should give Texas another middle-of-the-order bat, one capable of helping to replace Josh Hamilton and, perhaps, Nelson Cruz. —R.J. Anderson

Fantasy

Shin-Soo Choo

Sure, Arlington no longer plays like the launching pad it used to and the AL is the harder league to move to, but Shin-Soo Choo’s stock goes up as he joins a formidable lineup in Texas. Choo’s ability to get on base (.423 OBP in 2013) will be maximized by the projected lineup of Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre hitting behind him. He scored 107 runs last year and I would anticipate that number holding in 2014. Choo will also benefit from hitting behind a nonpitcher in the American League. In 2013 Choo hit lead off in 143 games under Dusty Baker and I would expect Ron Washington to use him similarly. There is a red flag to keep in mind: Choo hit .215/.347/.265 in 221 PAs against lefties last year. It’s a trend that started in 2012 and looks to get worse as he ages. Still, Choo should be a highly sought-after outfielder in every format in 2014. Plate discipline tends to age well.

Prince Fielder/Adrian Beltre

Shin-Soo Choo gets on base at a much higher clip than either Leonys Martin or Elvis Andrus, so placing him at the top of the Rangers’ lineup greatly benefits the big boys in the middle. Expect Fielder and Beltre’s RBI opportunities to increase.

Leonys Martin

Martin was projected to lead off for the Rangers in 2014. With Choo in the fold he likely gets relegated to hitting eighth or ninth, depending on what Ron Washington wants to do with Jurickson Profar. Martin’s value is tied mainly to his legs, so if he’s hitting ninth he’ll have less of a chance to utilize that tool due to the decrease in total PAs that accompanies hitting at the bottom of the order.

Michael Choice

Choice was primed to be the Rangers’ starting left fielder in 2014, but Choo’s arrival puts his immediate future in limbo. Choice gets on base (11.5 walk percentage in Triple-A last year) and maybe that’s enough to earn him some playing time over a guy like Mitch Moreland. Choice does handle lefties well enough to entertain a platoon of sorts with Choo, but all of that is a far cry from major league regular.

Mitch Moreland

With Choo, Prince Fielder and Michael Choice in the fold, it’s getting harder to imagine Moreland sticking in the Rangers' lineup for long. Moreland followed up an okay 2012 with a meh 2013. At 27 it’s unlikely that he’ll find the power he hinted at in the minor leagues. Given their options at designated hitter, it’s possible that Moreland finds his playing time slashed, which hurts his overall fantasy value. —Mauricio Rubio

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here

15 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

hyprvypr

Well, either the Rangers 'stole' Choo, or the Yankees badly over paid Ellsbury. Choo's crushed him on OPS. and more importantly, OBP.(by a mile). Choo's strong arm can make up for Ellsbury's range...

I know he's a year+ older, but wow, it could be argued the contracts should be switched.

Dec 21, 2013 16:42 PM
rating: 2
 
The Beef
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You are not taking into account the leagues these guys played in last year. The NL central is a joke compared to the AL East. You're comparing apples to dildos.

Choo regresses this year (refer to CLE numbers), while Ellsbury will continue to put up the same numbers with more power and he can hit L/R handed pitching unlike the Choo-Choo Train.

Dec 22, 2013 15:13 PM
rating: -23
 
tonyfranco

For the record Ellsbury only hit .246/.336/.318 vs. lefties. Better than Choo's, but I wouldn't claim Ellsbury's line to be indicative of a successful split.

Dec 23, 2013 11:22 AM
rating: 2
 
psblcws

Ellsbury is also a plus-defender in center field as opposed to a corner outfielder like Choo. He also has a lot more speed.

But sure, there are folks who would prefer Choo. Both are great players.

Dec 22, 2013 15:29 PM
rating: 1
 
Justice

I think that Shin-Soo Choo is a better overall player than Jacoby Ellsbury in both the short and long term. But make no mistake, neither one is a superstar. They just happened to be two of the elite players below Robinson Cano in this year's free agent class.

Dec 21, 2013 23:34 PM
rating: 1
 
palehose

The mystery about Jacob Ellsbury is the 2011 season. How, in a seven year career, can a player hit half his lifetime home runs of 65 in one season. Talk about red flags.

Dec 22, 2013 11:02 AM
rating: 0
 
The Beef

I don't think the Yankees got Ellsbury because they think he's gonna hit 30 bombs again. But 15 sounds like a good over/under to start with.

As long as he stays healthy his number from last year extrapolated over a full 650-700 AB's, with a little help from the new dimensions of his home field, should make him a great addition to the top of their order.

Gardner - Ellsbury - Suzuki outfield - where can you hit it other than over the wall?

Dec 22, 2013 15:21 PM
rating: -1
 
Matthew Trueblood

Well, you can hit it to right... Ichiro isn't Ichiro anymore.

Dec 23, 2013 05:49 AM
rating: 3
 
Luke in MN

It's an awesome defensive outfield, but sort of un-Yankees-ish. The Bronx...Defenders.

Dec 23, 2013 09:18 AM
rating: 0
 
palehose

Ichiro is going to be dumped on somebody. The Yankees can't afford a $6 million fourth outfielder and stay under the luxury tax ceiling.

Dec 23, 2013 13:05 PM
rating: 0
 
SC

I'm a bit surprised you're considering Choo in for a DH spot in three or four years. Fielder, of course, but a guy who can play CF today and has decent wheels seems unlikely to fall all the way off the defensive spectrum, especially if the platoon splits persist and as such he's only starting 125 games at the back end of the deal.

Dec 22, 2013 11:18 AM
rating: 0
 
Adam Hobson

"though the deals are comparable after taxes are considered"

Considering every article on this signing that I've read references Texas' lack of state income tax as part of this deal, shouldn't MLB consider state income taxes when calculating the luxury tax?

Considering that NY state has a top income tax rate of 8.82%, while California has a top income tax rate of 12.30%, teams in Texas and Florida are getting a around a free 10% to play with on their team salaries before hitting the luxury tax.

Dec 23, 2013 08:01 AM
rating: 0
 
Schere

It's more complicated than that. States & cities collect income taxes on both teams for games in their stadia. So, the pure benefit only comes through for the home games. And even then, residency matters and plenty of other stuff matters, too. Taxes are complicated.

http://articles.latimes.com/2009/apr/12/sports/sp-jock-tax12

Dec 23, 2013 08:21 AM
rating: 3
 
Matthew Trueblood

It'll never happen with Ron Washington in the dugout, but if Bob Melvin managed the Rangers, Choo and Choice would platoon, and it would be glorious.

Dec 23, 2013 05:51 AM
rating: 0
 
Lastblues

"It says 'I choo choo choose you,' and there's a picture of a train!"

Dec 23, 2013 05:51 AM
rating: 11
 
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