There was an episode of “Everybody Loves Raymond” in which Ray confronts a sports talk show host who doesn’t like him. The guy says that he’s read his writing and heard him speak and “I just don’t get it.” Why am I mentioning a scene from a sitcom that’s been off the air for nearly 10 years? Well, aside from the fact that the show was rich with Mets mentions and memorabilia, the line from that host is the way I feel about Shin-Soo Choo, who has been mentioned as a possible target for the Mets in free agency after this season.
I will start out by saying that I am not an expert on Shin-Soo Choo. I’m sure I’ve seen him play a few times over the years, but there was nothing memorable about him. In cases like this I turn to statistics, and they’ve never let me down.
Remember how everybody was clamoring for the Mets to sign Cody Ross this past off season? I wrote that based on his stats, it would be a mistake. The Diamondbacks gave him three years, $26 million. How’s he doing so far? — how about one home run and 10 RBIs, and that’s in a ballpark that is a haven for homers.
Back to Shin-Soo Choo. People have been talking for years about this guy like he is the second coming of Ted Williams or something. A look at his stats proves otherwise. Prior to this season Choo has basically played five years and two of them have been shortened by injury. So he has only played three full seasons. In those seasons he has hit more than 20 home runs twice and never had 100 RBIs. He topped out at 90 in 2010.
This is not to say he can’t hit — he hit exactly .300 in two of his full seasons. It is his ability to get on base that people seem to like. He can take the alleged all-important walk; he was eighth in the American League in walks in 2010 with 83 (it should be noted that someone named Daric Barton lead the league that season with 110 walks, and who the hell is Daric Barton?!). His .401 on-base percentage that year was fourth.
Choo was dealt to the Reds this past off season and now he is batting leadoff. His 25 walks are tied with David Wright for second in the league and he leads the way with a .451 OBP. He is also batting .309 and has seven home runs in the bandbox that is Great American Ballpark.
On the downside, Choo strikes out a ton (150 times last season) and is apparently a terrible defensive outfielder (he is playing center field this season after primarily being in right).
So there is certainly nothing wrong with Shin-Soo Choo; it’s just I don’t think he is worthy of all the praise that is constantly being heaped upon him as if he is one of the top hitters in the game. You know what is more telling to me? The fact that not only did the Indians trade him, they are paying nearly half of his $7.375 million salary this season. How good can this guy be if Cleveland paid three and a half million bucks to get rid of him?
Those numbers dwarf what Choo will likely command as a free agent. Scott Boras is his agent, so you know he will demand, and probably get, a massive contract. He will likely be compared to such recent free agent leadoff hitters as Michael Bourn (who got $12 million per season from those same Indians) and Shane Victorino (hitting second for the Red Sox but a leadoff type who got $13 million per season).
Choo is probably a better hitter than those overpriced guys, so you’d have to guess that he’ll get upwards of $15 million per season on a long-term contract from one dumb owner. He also turns 31 in July, so it is safe to say that we’ve seen the best from Shin-Soo Choo.
Shin-Soo Choo is a decent hitter, certainly better than anyone the Mets currently have in the outfield. He would fit nicely in the Mets lineup, but only at a reasonable price (right around what he’s currently making) and only for two or three years. I really hope Sandy Alderson will not be seduced by Choo’s on base percentage and walks and sign him to a huge contract. He is not a difference maker who would warrant such a deal. Perhaps the Wilpons cheapness will actually be a positive in this case.