It’s a hair early to start fixating on offseason acquisition possibilities, so I don’t want to go too far down this rabbit hole just yet …
But Patrick Mooney dropped a very interesting report last night, citing industry sources who expect the Cubs to pursue free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo this offseason. The 31-year-old lefty has been playing center field for the Reds, but is thought to be more of a corner outfield type. The Cubs will have an obvious opening in left field next year, and Choo would certainly offer a much needed OBP boost at the top of the order. For his career, Choo is a .288/.387/.464 hitter.
There are some injury concerns with Choo, who has missed time on and off over the past several seasons, but he has played at least 144 games in all but one of the last five seasons (assuming he plays in a few more games this year). His platoon splits are also a concern, as he rocks righties, but struggles quite a bit against lefties. As the Cubs of late have shown, however, they are not averse to working a platoon to maximize the performance of each component. How much you pay the left-handed side of an outfield platoon, however, remains a big question.
If the Cubs are to pursue Choo, you’ll have to remember the protect draft pick issue I wrote about last week. I expect that the Reds will make Choo a qualifying offer (one year, $14ish million), which he will reject. From there, he will be tied to draft pick compensation, and the team signing him will lose its first round pick, unless their pick is in the first 10 in the Draft. If the Cubs “fall” in the 11th spot in the standings, I really don’t think you’ll see them willing to give up a first rounder to sign Choo. So, if you want to see the Cubs go after him this Winter, you’ve kind of got to pull for them to lose enough to stay within the worst 10 records in baseball this year. It’s an ugly business, but it’s true.
Choo is a Scott Boras client, and he’ll be looking for huge money in his one big shot at free agency. It’s very difficult to project where he’ll land, but it’s worth noting that quality outfielders Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher – each of whom was tied to draft pick compensation – got just 4/$48 million and 4/$56 million, respectively, last year. It was a better outfield class in free agency, though, so Choo might do a little bit better.
Although some have said the Cubs will punt on 2014, as they did in 2012 and 2013 in service of rebuilding (I’m not quite sure I’d call 2013 punting, but we’re in the ballpark), I have never really believed that would prove to be the case. I’ve always said I expect to see a roster that, on paper, looks like a .500 team going into the season in 2014, and I still expect that to be the case. The realities associated with keeping a fan base active and interested – there are financial reasons to get asses in the seats, and those financial reasons, in turn, help fuel the baseball operations down the road – are going to be too strong in a market like Chicago for the Cubs to field another stinker in 2014. I’m not saying I agree with it or like it, but I will say that I trust this front office enough to know that, while they may make a move or two designed to improve in the short-term, they will not do so in a way that materially harms the long-term vision. In other words, we might see a splash signing or trade (or two), which could help field a better – but still not obviously playoff-contending – team in 2014, but I don’t think we’re going to see moves that make us think they’ve abandoned the rebuilding program.