Now that Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran are off the market the free agent outfield stock is starting to wear thin. The two biggest names left on the market are Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz. Rumors have it that Texas is in on both names. Buster Olney reports that Texas has met with Cruz recently and Ken Rosenthal says the Rangers are one of few teams in on Choo.
Reports have Cruz asking for 4 years and 75 million dollars while Texas wants to settle on a two year contract. It is widely known that the Texas front office likes Cruz and the players on the team seem to love Cruz. Texas wants Nelson back but the front office has shown that it is more than happy to let their own players walk if the other teams want to over pay.
Choo and his agents are trying to set Choo’s contract by following Ellsbury’s new 7 year, 153 million deal. Choo sported a healthy .285/.423/.462 slash line that amounted to the fourth best outfielding wRC+ at 151 which bests Ellsbury’s 113. Much of Ellsbury’s value comes from his defense. Ellsbury has the slight edge in fWAR at 5.8 compared to Choo’s 5.2. Based on last season’s stats it appears Choo may well be deserving of a comparable contract. Choo does not play the same level of defense that Ellsbury does but he gets on base at an incredible clip and definitely hit the ball.
Texas would improve with a Choo acquisition or by bringing Cruz back. Either could play in left field and Texas could benefit from a leadoff hitter and another middle of the order power hitter. Acquiring Choo would give Texas the best leadoff hitter in the AL and allow Leonys Martin to be moved out of leadoff. Martin may develop into a top of the order hitter but he is not there yet and he does not need the pressure right now. If Texas brings back Cruz he can hit the fifth spot where he has always been better suited than for the fourth spot. A middle of the order with Adrian Beltre, Prince Fielder and Cruz would be intimidating and Cruz would be a big upgrade over Mitch Moreland or Geovany Soto, one of whom is going to be the fifth hitter in the currently constructed lineup.
Cruz is already 33 and Choo 31 so a four year deal and a seven year deal, respectively, puts them in Texas Blue into their late 30s. It seems if Texas has the money and can grab either of these players that would go a long way to making this lineup a deep and dangerous one again. Choo may be able to maintain his OBP skill over the life of a six or seven year contract. A hitters’ eye is the easiest trait to maintain as other physical skills decline. Whether Cruz can maintain his power for the next four or five years is a larger question. Cruz already lacks plate discipline and now that he is presumably off steroids he may deteriorate even faster. Although Texas could use a middle of the order bat more than a leadoff hitter, Choo may be a better deal than Cruz, even with the pay differential. The decision becomes even easier as Cruz’s price tag climbs.