Rangers Board The Choo Choo Train

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has reportedly signed a seven-year $130 million deal with the Texas Rangers. Choo is coming off a great bounce-back year in which he posted 5.2 fWAR on the strength of a .423 OBP. Yep, he got on base 1.86 times more often than J.P. Arencibia. Choo is a butcher in the field however; he has had a UZR under -15 in consecutive seasons. Due to his lack of defensive prowess, he will likely have to move to DH down the road (if it isn’t already occupied by the Prince). This move actually wouldn’t really decrease his value however, since his defense already makes up for the positional adjustment.

There has been lots of positive talk about the contract, and a lot of people clambering on about the “5 year rule” for the Blue Jays, but was it really a good deal? I have seen some uneasiness with other knowledgeable baseball minds as well. Let’s take a look at the projected surplus value of the contract.

Choo is currently projected for 3.2 WAR by Steamer, which seems very reasonable, as the 15% walk rate would be very hard to maintain. Choo’s contract is as follows: $14M in 2014 and 2015, $21M in 2016 and 2017, and $20M from 2018-2020. Using Oliver’s 5 year projections as a guide, and the 3.2 WAR from Steamer, I will break down the contract:

Projected War
Salary (M)
$/WAR (M)
Surplus (M)

So it looks like the deal is decent value for Texas, but it isn’t a steal by any means. I’m also not a fan of the backloading. After the first two years are over, they are looking at a probable negative value player. They might end up with a logjam at the DH spot with Fielder and Choo after two years if Choo’s defense continues to decline. It’s also possible that Adrian Beltre may not be fully capable to play 3rd in two years, causing even more of a logjam. The Rangers will likely be forced to end up moving one these players, and both Choo and Fielder’s contracts will look very daunting at that time. It will be unlikely that the Rangers could flip one of them for anything of value, as we all know how bad Fielder’s contract will be then.

Why didn’t the Rangers pay up front so that they could have a more movable asset down the road if necessary? If they plan on keeping Choo in the outfield, they’ll be in for a lot of runs lost. It makes more sense to pay for the wins when they occur and then move the contract for an asset. Then again, there is always the Marlins patented “sign and dump” approach, where you pay a cheap price for the wins and then dump the salary for nothing.

Choo will also have the ability to block trades to 10 teams. This would make his contract considerably harder to dump, and suggests Daniels has gone a bit daft in thinking Choo can patrol an outfield spot for the next 7 years.

Overall, the contract itself is not bad in terms of value, but the logistics just don’t make a lot of sense for the Rangers in the future. The contract isn’t structured in a way that will really benefit the Rangers in the long term, though it certainly does in the short. Let me know what you think of the deal in the comments!

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Author: Chris Carruthers

Chris has been a baseball (and Jays) fan for 15 years. He has also played since the age of 6, working his way through Little League and Babe Ruth Baseball as a catcher and first baseman. He got interested in sabermetrics after viewing the movie Moneyball. His continuous self-learning in sabermetrics and advanced stats is driven by his engineering background and love for numbers. Chris's go-to website is FanGraphs, where he has had a few previous community submissions. Chris also enjoys music and plays guitar in his sparse spare time from his studies. He also follows hockey and his favourite team, the Calgary Flames. Follow Chris on Twitter @CCBreakingBlue.

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  1. I’m not sure if it’s really fair to call Choo a butcher in the OF yet, if he’s playing a corner.

    His -15 last year came in CF, so call it -5 for a corner. The year before could have just been a UZR blip – the four years prior he hovered around a 0 run COF defender.

    His D in a corner is a lot like Bautista’s, actually. Close enough to zero runs but optically overrated because of a big arm.

    Post a Reply
    • This could be true, but it’s also good to note Steamer projects -16.2 Def runs, which would be almost exactly what he’d be worth at DH.

      Steamer is also projecting 2.8 WAR now as of this morning, instead of 3.2.

      Post a Reply
      • Hard to say if that’s necessarily a fair projection though. I’m not sure what the inputs would be for Steamer D, but if it’s mostly a 3 year weighted average + aging, then it would be projecting on a pretty small sample size. 2011 was an abbreviated campaign and 2013 was basically all in CF. So if 2012 was a UZR blip for Choo in a corner, then you’d have a heavily sandbagged projection.

        Possibly. Steamer’s D projections could be more sophisticated than that though. I’m not sure how they do it.

        Post a Reply
    • I was going to draw a Bautista comp yesterday ago on the forum when Choo’s contract was being discussed. Two guys with below-average but not Thames-esque jumps and reads and cannons for arms that make up some of the difference. I dunno, I have a hard time seeing Choo markedly below-average on a corner right now.

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  2. The other thing to fear with Choo, is how he will age. OBP driven value also tend to age more poorly than those with more power. If he loses any batspeed, those sharp singles the other way turn into weak grounders. I think this contract will be neutral at best (which is what you expect from FA contracts).

    Having said that, the Rangers are not exactly in the game of “Surplus Value” on contracts. They have an infinity billion dollar tv deal that will more than fund thier payroll for the next 20 years. Anything they make on top of that is gravy. They pick up a guy who can get some wins now, and who cares if there are better deals out there down the road or if they have to pay some other team 15MM per year to take him off thier roster for a few years.

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