The Shin-Soo Choo 7-year/$130 million contract has not worked out for the Texas Rangers. Is it too late or can the team still find a reasonable way to move Choo?
In 2014, the Texas Rangers signed 31-year-old outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to a 7-year, $130 million contract. Choo was coming off a season with the Cincinnati Reds in which he posted a slash line of .285/.423/.462 with 21 home runs, 34 doubles and 112 walks. At the time, he was one of the better leadoff hitters in MLB.
Needless to say, it was a good year for Choo to be a free agent. The Rangers figured he’d be the perfect player to set the table for middle of the order bats like Adrian Beltre and Prince Fielder. That’s not how it played out.
Shin-Soo Choo’s first season with Texas was a year to forget—for Choo and his team. Choo played in only 123 games in 2014. He hit .240 and scored just 58 runs. The Texas Rangers finished 5th in the American League West with a 67-95 record. Year one of the Choo contract was a waste.
He’s had a couple of decent seasons since; however, nothing to fulfill his $20 million annual contract. The front office mentality has quickly swung from “all-star leadoff hitter facilitating a playoff offense” to “how in the world can we ditch this guy’s contract?”
It’s is no disrespect to Shin-Soo Choo. He is known to be a hard worker and an excellent teammate. In addition, he’s put forth okay seasons and he still gets on base at a high clip. Is he living up to his wealthy contract? No. But is it entirely his fault? No.
Let’s revert back to the first sentence of the article. “The Texas Rangers signed 31-year-old outfielder Shin-Soo Choo to a 7-year, $130 million contract.” Point being, they were expecting an awful lot from Choo on the backend of his career. Those daring expectations have haunted the Texas Rangers. Moreover, they now seem to be stuck with an overwhelming contract for an underwhelming player, on a soon to be rebuilt team.
So, what are the Rangers supposed to do? Unfortunately, a trade is the only option, a disadvantageous option at that. Texas would have to eat the vast majority of what remains on Choo’s contract (two years, $42 million). Potential suitors for Shin-Soo Choo will have the ball in their court. Reason being, they’ll be aware of the Rangers’ desperation to move him.
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It doesn’t help that Choo is not playing well. Nor does it help that he’s now a primary DH. However, he’s still capable of playing the outfield. A National League contender would surely take a shot on him if they feel he fits.
Plus, it’s not like Shin-Soo Choo is a washed up player. The sole issue is his contract. The Texas Rangers are paying for the 2013 version of Choo, while the 2018 version is more worthy of a one or two-year contract at maybe $7 million per year. Therefore, if Texas can propose a trade in which they pay around $28 million of his remaining contract, perhaps someone will be interested.
Choo’s situation relates to two New York Yankees. His contract compares to Jacoby Ellsbury’s. Ellsbury is 34 years old (Choo is 35) and is set to make $21 million this season. He has not played at all this year and it’s been a few years since Ellsbury has posted good numbers.
On the other hand, Choo’s performance compares more to Brett Gardner, who is 34 years old and making $11 million. Gardner has one homer and is slashing .227/.353/.298 in 2018. He is a better defensive outfielder than Choo, though, that doesn’t weigh nearly as much as offensive production. The Yankees obviously have more cushion with contracts, but the point is Choo is putting up similar numbers to an outfieler that is making $11 million a year.
It’s tough to predict the contenders at the trade deadline, as we’re only in May. Though, I’d imagine there will be a few teams that could use a veteran with a high on-base percentage. The Texas Rangers would have to pay a lot, but maybe they could get a reasonable piece in return. And maybe they can find a way to not pay every penny of the $42 million leftover on his regretabble contract.