Analysis

Free Agent Pass or Play: Shin-Soo Choo

Choo will be on everyone’s radar this free agency.

Each day until free agency begins, we at Phillies Nation will take a look at a player who will become a free agent five days from the conclusion of the World Series. We will explore potential performance, fit, cost, and feasibility. We continue today with left-handed outfielder Shin-Soo Choo. And a reminder: you can check out all the “Pass or Play” posts by clicking on the category hyperlink.

Performance

Choo became a regular with Cleveland in 2008 after arriving in a trade for first baseman Ben Broussard. The deal would be one of the best in Cleveland’s history and likely the worst in Mariners history – Choo was worth 18 wins from 2006 through 2012 while Broussard has not played in the Majors since 2008 and only played a season and a half with the Mariners.

Choo was traded to Cincinnati for the 2013 season and responded with 21 homers, 20 steals, and a .423 OBP, good for second in the National League. Choo has been the eighth most valuable outfielder in Major League Baseball since 2008, trailing only Manny Ramirez and Mike Trout in on-base percentage in that time frame and ranks 11th among Major League outfielders in On-Base+Slugging in that same time frame. Choo has quietly been among the most productive outfielders in the Majors in the last six seasons but the secret is out among MLB GMs, as we will see in our salary projections.

Fit

Choo hits left-handed and, if signed, would make at least seven of the Phillies eight regulars lefties. Choo does almost all of his damage against righties, hitting .309/.411/.521 over his career. Where Choo struggles immensely is against lefties, losing nearly 70 points in platoon splits in batting average and on-base percentage and about 180 points in slugging. Of Choo’s 712 2013 PA, 221 were against lefties (31%) and his splits against lefties are an upgrade over Domonic Brown (.235/.291/.379).

Simply put, Choo is a very, very good baseball player and almost MLB team could find a way to fit him on a Major League roster. Signing Choo could allow, or perhaps force, the Phillies to do many other interesting things. Choo is 31 years old and a long term deal may not be in the Phillies best interest.

Cost

According to the awesome FanGraphs crowd-sourcing project, Choo is likely in line for somewhere between $15-18 million per year for four to five years. Choo should get between the second and fourth highest-AAV contract this offseason and without making other moves, the cost likely is prohibitive for the Phillies barring a gigantic television agreement.

Feasibility

Quite frankly, it probably very unlikely the Phillies will be able to make a play for Choo. Sadly, even with such drastic platoon splits, he would be an upgrade over every Phillies outfielder offensively. Some will mention that Choo will receive a ~$14 million qualifying offer but he will decline to go for a multi-year deal. The Phillies have a protected first-rounder in the 2014 Draft so they would not lose their pick should they sign someone who has declined a qualifying offer.

Verdict: Play, But…

You probably can, and should, only window shop here unless the Phillies win the Powerball Jackpot. While Choo has been relatively healthy, adding Choo would be adding a 31-year old for five or more years. Choo is an excellent player – call for a price check and move on after sticker shock.

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