His contract may not be pretty, but Shin-Soo Choo is the big bat the Cleveland Indians desperately need and they should strongly consider adding him.
Saying the Cleveland Indians need an outfield bat is as much of a no-brainer as saying the Cleveland Browns were hot garbage in 2017. The Tribe has been linked to just about every available outfielder and even some infielders who could either play outfield or push Jason Kipnis to the outfield again as our own Kyle Downing suggested recently. However, one outfielder whose name has not come up is former Indian Shin-Soo Choo of the Texas Rangers, though he may be the best fit of any outfielder out there.
Choo having an offensive resurgence this season
Choo, the former Cleveland Indian, made his first All-Star game this season after a monster first half that saw him reach base in 52 straight games. Choo has hit .278/.392/.477 with 18 home runs and a 136 wRC+. Perhaps even more impressive have been his numbers versus right-handed pitching, including a .294/.405/.534 batting line. His 153 wRC+ versus righties is actually the seventh-best mark among big league outfielders and 13th best overall. He doesn’t need to be platooned but Guyer could spell him against some lefties and form one of the best offensive right fields in the game.
Defensively Choo is still the same guy from his Tribe days. He’s below average and has been a designated hitter for much of the year though does have 33 games in the outfield with a -4 DRS (defensive runs saved). However, considering the Indians are using Melky Cabrera in right field right now (he of a -20 DRS in 2017), Choo really is no worse (could argue he’d be an improvement even).
What about the cost?
The biggest negative with Choo is without a doubt his contract. He is making $20 million in 2018 and is owed $21 million in both 2019 and 2020, meaning he’s still owed about $48-50 million over the next 2 1/2 years. That’s a ton for any player, let alone one that just turned 36. The Cleveland Indians have only given a handful of contracts in team history worth more than $48 million so adding Choo for that much is not happening. However, the Rangers could be motivated to move him enough that they’d be willing to include money.
Despite Choo’s great season (he does have a 2.7 fWAR), I can’t imagine the cost for the Indians in prospects would be all that high either. Perhaps the Tribe would increase the return depending on how much money the Rangers included but even if they ate half that contract one shouldn’t expect a top-five prospect going to Texas. The Indians have enough depth to absorb a hit in that prospect range and with money coming off the books could pay Choo between $12-15 million next year and be okay I’d think.
The Indians could also potentially send a guy like Danny Salazar to Texas. Salazar will miss all of 2018 with a bum shoulder that resulted in surgery. However, when he’s healthy he’s one of the best pitchers in the game. He has two years of team control left (via arbitration) and could be a nice lotto ticket for the Rangers as they rebuild the next couple years. His salary going to Texas would also help offset the cost of adding Choo to the Tribe’s payroll (I expect Salazar to get around $5-5.5 million next year). Perhaps a deal of Salazar and Ka’ai Tom for Choo and cash? Perhaps Tom isn’t enough (he’s a borderline top 30 guy on a good day) but given that contract not sure how much more the Rangers could expect to get…
That lineup though!
Adding Choo to the Indians would give them one of the deepest lineups in baseball too. Put that on-base percentage in the leadoff spot allows the Tribe to drop everyone a spot in the lineup, lengthening an already very good lineup. Here’s what a lineup with Choo in it could look like for the Indians:
- Shin-Soo Choo RF
- Francisco Lindor SS
- Michael Brantley LF
- Jose Ramirez 3B
- Edwin Encarnacion DH
- Yonder Alonso 1B
- Jason Kipnis 2B
- Yan Gomes C
- Greg Allen/Rajai Davis CF
Center field is the one weak spot but the defense and speed in that 9-hole is solid and given how solid the ones above have hit (or in the case of a guy like Kipnis, are currently hitting), that’s a lineup where you can live with one bad apple (and perhaps another move is still in order). You’ve added a near .400 OBP guy in front of three straight All-Stars. Yeah, that’ll play!
There is definitely some risk with this as Choo could struggle leaving Texas and his age means he could decline sooner rather than later. He’s also not immune to injury as he missed time the previous two years (and his bat struggled). However, given the year he’s had it’s reasonable to think 2018 should be fine and gambling on the future to win a title while the club has the likes of Brantley, Andrew Miller, and Cody Allen seems like a risk worth taking (at least in my eyes).
So what do you think, should the Cleveland Indians take a chance on a big contract (and aging player) like Choo? Hopefully between this article and my (hundreds) of tweets on the subject I have convinced a few to join my side. Or should they look at a more reasonable option like Cameron Maybin or Adam Jones and not risk taking on a player with the contract/age/defense of Choo? Should they wait until August when he’s put on waivers? Let us know in the comments below or hit us up on Facebook or Twitter.
Photo courtesy of Keith Allison, via Flickr.