Entering this offseason, Shin-Soo Choo was considered to be one of the best players on the open market. After Jacoby Ellsbury, Choo was considered by most to be the next best outfield option on the open market.
I have been touting Choo as an option for the Chicago Cubs for some time now. He fills their needs perfectly. That being said, after Ellsbury signed an enormous seven-year, $153 million contract with the New York Yankees, I figured that the 31-year-old Choo would get more money than would make sense for the Cubs. Now, with teams interested in Choo appearing to dwindle, I think the Cubs may be waiting in the weeds ready to pounce at the opportunity to sign him.
The team has at least one obvious starting spot available in their outfield. Nate Schierholtz is the only current outfielder on the roster that must start for the Cubs. Junior Lake is a very exciting player, but he has many flaws and some more time in Triple-A could do him some good. Ryan Sweeney would probably be the starter in CF if the season started today. Nothing against Sweeney as he is a solid player, but he would be much more valuable coming off of the bench. While he is much better defensively on the corners, Choo can play all three outfield positions well. There is no doubt that there is room for him on this team.
Choo may not have the raw skills that scouts dream of, but he is solid across the board. He is a good defender (average in center, plus in the corners), has nice power (21 HR and .462 SLG in 2013) and is a threat to steal bases (20 SB in 2013).
He hit .285 last season which you like to see, but his AVG does not jump out at you like his .423 on-base percentage which was the 4th highest in all of baseball last season. Choo is an incredibly patient hitter that is not afraid to work the count and take a walk (he was 2nd in all of baseball with 112 walks last season). His approach at the plate is exactly what the Cubs’ front office is looking for, and that, more than anything is what makes him a great fit with this team.
The Cubs have been connected to him at the Winter Meetings, so I think it is safe to assume there is some interest there. That being said, this team is simply not in the position to spend freely on a 31-year-old player. The Cubs are at least a year away from being competitive, and signing a player who will soon be past his prime years to a monster contract does not make any sense yet.
Because of this, if Choo gets anything close to his seven-year, $140 million asking price the Cubs simply will not be involved. However, if Choo were to get a deal like that I do not see where it is coming from.
The Arizona Diamondbacks were once the favorites, but after their trade for Mark Trumbo they are reportedly out. The Seattle Mariners have been linked to Choo a ton, but they grabbed Corey Hart and Logan Morrison already today and seem more focused on adding a starting pitcher. The Texas Rangers are another rumored team, but they do not seem willing to pay him at his current rate. Do not count out Choo returning to the Cincinnati Reds, but their general manager Walt Jockety does not seem optimistic, telling reporters on Wednesday “I think we have to move on,” in regards to Choo.
If Choo’s asking price begins to fall I think the Cubs can swoop in and grab him. For the right price, on let’s say a five-year-deal, he has the opportunity to become a steal and help lead the Cubs into their next era. He will probably be a little past his prime when they are ready to compete, but that does not mean he cannot help the team. You have to sign free agents when they are available, and Choo just seems like the perfect fit.