With the signing of Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo is the best hitter available in the free agent class. The 31 year-old outfielder is looking for a big deal, something in the range of seven years at $20 million per year.
There are a bevy of teams that are reported to be interested in Choo, including the Seattle Mariners, Arizona Diamondbacks, Detroit Tigers, New York Yankees, and Texas Rangers.
How much is Choo worth? Should he command a deal in the Ellsbury range?
Choo is an on-base machine. He owns a career .389 OBP which only six active players can top. Since 2008, only 12 active players have a higher wRC+ than Choo’s 138 mark. In 2013, he posted a 15.7 percent walk rate and .423 OBP, both of which were second in the NL behind teammate Joey Votto.
However, he’s not without his flaws. He owns a career mark of .243/.340/.341 against lefties, which comes out to a 92 wRC+. In 2013, he hit just .215/.347/.265 against lefties, a dismal 81 wRC+. Nobody would pay upwards of $100 for a platoon player, but Choo struggles mightily against lefties.
In addition, he’s a poor defensive player. Defensive metrics have consistently rated him as well below average, and in 2013, UZR rated him as the worst centerfielder in baseball by a wide margin. A move to a corner spot would do him well, but he’s no wizard with the glove there either.
For his career, Choo has averaged 3.9 fWAR per 600 plate appearances. 2010 and 2013 have been great seasons, but his mediocre 2011 and 2012 seasons where he totaled 3.7 fWAR can’t be ignored. Steamer projects him to produce a .272/.385/.432 line in 2014, with 3.2 fWAR. I’ll take the over on that as I think moving to the corner will improve his value (or at least give him less negative value) but not by much.
Overall, Choo is more of a solid player than star, and he’ll turn 32 during the 2014 season. Factoring in age-related decline, he should produce something in the range of 15 fWAR over the course of a seven year deal. This would make $140 million a big stretch. Maybe the Mariners will play fast and loose with their new piles of cash, but I don’t think Choo should get more than $110 million.