Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Shin-Soo Choo Reaches Agreement

Indians star right fielder Shin-Soo Choo agreed yesterday to a one year deal worth 3.995m during his first season of arbitration eligibility. Choo has been one of baseball's absolute best (and most under appreciated) players over the past two seasons, totaling 10.6 WAR. He's also been incredibly consistent posting near identical triple-slash lines in 2009 and 2010:

2009: .300/.394/.489 - 20HR - 86 RBI - 21SB
2010: .300/.401/.484 - 22HR - 90 RBI - 22SB

In addition to his strong offense, Choo also plays a league average right field, posting a 0.8 UZR/150 over the course of his career.

He's a true five tool player and it's made him one of baseball's most interesting commodities. The Indians have expressed an interest in signing Choo to a long-term deal, but Choo, represented by Scott Boras, has shown characteristically little interest in such a deal. But according to Paul Hoynes, that hasn't stopped the team from exploring the idea. If a deal can actually be worked out remains to be seen. Boras generally advises his clients against signing extensions during their arbitration years that would buy out free agent seasons.

That doesn't jive with what Franchises generally look to accomplish however. Typically, the reason a team would extend a player is to avoid paying full price for one or two of a players first seasons of free agency. The general idea is that the team assumes the risk of a player getting hurt or regressing (and therefor gives the player security against such an event) but gets cost savings in the long run. Boras of course, would prefer to maximize his clients earnings, and that's not something that can usually be done with long-term contracts of this nature.

A more likely scenario would have the Indians buying out Choo's two remaining seasons of arbitration. Such a deal would give the team cost-certainty for the next two years, but wouldn't help them accomplish their more likely desire - to keep Choo in Cleveland beyond his arbitration seasons.

In terms of what Choo would command in free agency, we can look at Jayson Werth as a decent comparable. Werth, like Choo is a right fielder who does everything pretty well, even if their triple-slash lines don't mesh perfectly. They'd both be reaching free agency at the same age, and presuming Choo's performance doesn't diminish, would both be tenured members of the 5 WAR club. It's likely that Choo would be worth at least 17m per year on the open market, and would command a deal of the 6-7 year length. Given such a lucrative payday just a few years in the future, it's no surprise that Boras and his client would want to reach free agency as soon as possible.

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