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shin-soo chooObligatory caveats that would normally come at the end, but are needed up front to temper any undue enthusiasm: as it was with a number of free agents last year, a smart front office “talks” to just about every free agent that could conceivably fall into a range where they might possibly consider a deal. Don’t get too excited, and take this only for what it is.

On his radio show yesterday with Ben Finfer, Bruce Levine reported that the Cubs have talked to Shin-Soo Choo, and are legitimately interested in signing him. You can listen for yourself at that link (start around 4:30), and there is almost an air of “yeah, I can’t believe it either” in Levine’s voice. But his sources tell him what they tell him.

I know that credible interest in Choo is a bit hard to believe, given the tenor of everything coming out of the front office right now … but it isn’t impossible. Although we have suspicions, we don’t know that the Cubs won’t have a payroll that re-approaches $100 million in 2014 (there are cost constraints in place, without a doubt, but it’s not like $100 million is that high, all things considered – and that’s where Levine says the Cubs could wind up). I’ve got the Cubs at about $73 million right now when factoring in arbitration raises, pre-arb 40-man players, and outstanding payments owed to non-Cubs. Even with a closer and another starter in their sights, adding Choo is not so outrageous as to be dismissed out of hand.

We’ve been talking about Choo as a possible Cubs target as far back as August, mostly for the obvious reasons: corner outfielder, huge OBP, lefty bat, veteran, free agent, yadda yadda yadda. He’s a superficial fit, no doubt about it.

The problems with Choo emerged only after (1) the Cubs’ financial picture cleared up a bit, (2) the prospects of adding big pieces for 2014 became less palatable for a variety of reasons, and (3) Choo’s price tag started being reported as above the seven years and $126 million Jayson Werth got from the Nationals a few years ago. At 31 without a ton of pop, a corner outfield glove, a 2013 OBP that was inflated by an unsustainable HBP rate, and an enormous platoon split, devoting those kinds of dollars to Choo doesn’t seem to make a ton of sense.

A more reasonable deal, however? Unlike in the infield, the Cubs don’t have a glut of young talent immediately on the doorstep. They also don’t have a ton of impact left-handed bats on the way, and the “discipline” skill tends to last quite a ways into a guy’s 30s. Even if 2014 is going to be a punt job, having Choo in place for 2015 – when the Cubs will have no regular outfielders (save Ryan Sweeney, if you want to count him) under contract – could make a whole lot of sense.

So do I think the Cubs will make a hard push for Choo at his market price? I don’t.

Instead, if Choo is this year’s Michael Bourn or Nick Swisher – each of whom was looking for a nine-figure deal last year, but ultimately had to settle in the $50 million range – and doesn’t sign for a few more weeks or into next month? Sure. Heck, even at five years and $75 million – plus the loss of a second round pick – I would totally be on board with the deal.

With teams like the Rangers, Mariners, Diamondbacks, and Reds still looking at outfield bats, however, I’m not convinced Choo will have to settle.

But, hey – sources say the Cubs are interested. So it’s worth following.

  • cubmig

    All-in-all, it is good to read the headline introducing this article by Brett. If the interest by the FO is for real and has legs, this is the time for the FO to add strength to the Cubs that could overlap the years when guys like Bryant, Baez and Almora come up.

    Theo, Jed: Find a way……………..

  • http://BN Sacko

    I’ll believe it when I see it. And I don’t think any of us are goona see it.

    • Geo

      They say that with every other free agent, & nothing ever happens! This is no different.

  • Frank

    Why spend a butt load of money on an aging corner outfirlder that doesn’t have a big bat. If they want someone that is a good defender that can’t hit, stick Barney out in left field. There could be two more toilet years, so save the money.

    • wvcubsfan

      Really? I mean really!!! Who wants someone at the top of the order that gets on base anyway.

      • Frank

        Do you get over emotional much? Next time, throw in an “Oh my God” for more effect.

        • wvcubsfan

          I guess the punctuation didn’t give it away, maybe I should have inserted

    • D-Rock

      Comparing Barney to Choo??? Are you serious???

      • Frank

        Your lack of understanding of the English language is catching up to you. In my post, I never compared Barney to Choo. If you want to make a more over the top statement, I suggest you use more question marks.

        • D-Rock

          Looks like you need to go back and read your own post, bud.

          “Why spend a butt load of money on an aging corner outfirlder that doesn’t have a big bat. If they want someone that is a good defender that can’t hit, stick Barney out in left field. There could be two more toilet years, so save the money.”

          BTW, I’m not the one with the English language problem. Outfielder is not spelled outfirlder…

    • rockin’ dawg

      I would exactly call 31 “aging.” This move makes sense to me, if the price tag isn’t too high. Locking up a LH top-of-the-order hitter for the next 5 years would be an excellent thing. Our OF is a mess and Almora/Soler aren’t coming up any time soon.

      • rockin’ dawg

        I would NOT call 31 “aging.”

        • wilbur

          for a lead off guy 31 is getting on to when the wheels come off. I hope they dont sign choo. Having a corner outlfielder that gets on base is fine, but getting hit by pitches gets old fast too. Why not try and find someone that can hit a little too?

  • FarmerTanColin

    I would defintiely go pretty high on Choo. OBP players have longer aging curve (3 more yearsish) until their decline. Also it’s not like the Cubs are gonna go on a crazy spending spree. Over paying one guy is do able with a bunch of guys from the minors coming up that are gonna make league minimum for 2-3 years.

    Payroll should be around 75 million after arbs? Sorianos 13 million goes away next season? We aren’t looking to add many more guys from free agency. Olt, Alcantara, Baez, even 4th OF types like Ha, Androlei are going to save money as bench/platoon pieces. This isn’t like 5-6 years back with Aram, Lee, Soriano, Zambrano, Dempster, etc all making 10-15+ mill a season.

    Need to sign good players when they’re available and when the decline happens its okay because of future savings a good farm system brings.

    • wvcubsfan

      This isn’t like 5-6 years back with Aram, Lee, Soriano, Zambrano, Dempster, etc all making 10-15+ mill a season.

      I sure wish we had that problem right now only with different names.

      • FarmerTanColin

        Ha divide the salaries by 10 and then we’ll get some names.

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  • Eric Decker

    Possible signing to cover a trade of either Soler or Bryant (if moved to OF)?

  • jsorensen

    Choo is the kind of OF the FO likes a lot I think. DeJesus was like the dollar store version of this kind of player. I could see them making an offer, and even a quite competitive one (over 100 mil.) because I think they would be looking to flip him after two years anyway, maybe at the deadline of 2015.

    BTW, I’ve been reading some Yankee fan sites and they all see Shark as a 4 or 5. Some of the players being mentioned as a return in trade were Brett Gardner, Campos (a pitcher came to NY in the Montero deal from Seattle), and Gary Sanchez. Most seemed to think that was an overpay though. Yankees fans are insane. Like we’re lucky to have the privilege to trade with them.

  • Corey

    Man, brett, is there anyway you can just take over ESPN?

    Your reporting is so on point, it’s amazing.

    Keep it up.

  • Moe C

    Choo is an ok player id take him just so he can teach guys about discipline but he has to be able to hit cant afford another Fukudome. And the other thing is i hear ppl say oh some players save us money prospects save us money, the Cubs have tons of money but are acting like they are broke. Now i can understand ppl saying dont spend as much til we are ready to win but come on add a few pieces that will overlap the time frame of when our prospects come up. If the Cubs sign Choo and Tanaka then the 2015 time frame might not have been a pipe dream. Cuz then another 2 FA signings and Bryant Baez Almora come up wooo we def can win

    • Voice of Reason

      Moe C wants to sign choo so he can teach discipline?

      That’s the most ridiculous comment I’ve seen in a while on bleacher nation.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Why the comparison between Choo and Fukudome? Choo has been producing very well in the majors for several years now. Fukudome came into Chicago as a rookie from Asia. I’m not sure what the connection there is.

      I think a better comparison would be to Soriano in that Choo could turn into a large contract that underperforms.

      • Patrick W.

        I have a guess

        • http://Q MichiganGoat

          Yup

      • baldtaxguy

        I might be imagining this, but there was a sense in Foko’s first year that the team was following his lead and working the count, taking some walks. I’m sure what was observed happened for about a week. I’m not sure if the comparison to Choo is hoping for this.

        But yes, apples and oranges – Choo – good, Fuko – not so.

        • Scotti

          No, you aren’t imaging it. But you are underestimating the effect. It lasted for more than “a week.” The Cubs drew 500 walks (tied for 25th in MLB) in 2007 and 636 (2nd–behind only BOS–in MLB) in 2008 (Fukudome’s first year with the Cubs). 25th to 2nd isn’t exactly an easy leap.

          There were numerous reports, including quotes from the players themselves, that working the count was infectious and directly attributed to Fukudome’s patience at the top. That year several Cubs had their career highs in BB (Soto, Ramirez, DeRosa, Theriot). Fukudome did not have a career high in walks that year (81) despite leading the team. He had 93 in 2009.

          My interest in getting Shin-Soo Choo is in exactly what Fukodome sparked in the Cubs in ’08.

  • Moe C

    I would also love to see Cubs take a chance on Corey Hart. He can play corner outfield and when Rizzo needs a break he can play first plus he has some power. He wouldnt be a bad idea

    • bbmoney

      it’s tough to count on a guy who just missed a whole year with knee problems and was already being moved to 1b to play much in the outfield.

  • Bill

    With revenues projected to go up in 2 to 3 years, is it possible to back load the contracts of Choo and Tanaka?

  • trust me

    Theo nooooooooooooo!!!!

  • nashvillecub

    Ownership is saying there are financial constraints. There are debates on either side of that statement, but because that is the line, Choo or Tanaka will not be here. I’ve resigned myself to the idea that they will not spend big. That being the case let’s take flyers on Justin Turner, Jesse Crain, John Axford, Eric O’Flaherty, Andrew Bailey, J.P. Howell, Scott Baker as the remaining buy low FA’s, and once again flip the ones who produce. What else can we do. We don’t have enough talent to uprade immediately at the MLB level via trade. I just hope that if our top minor league players don’t produce at the major league level that there is a plan in place that combines growing the farm along with the major league team simultaneously. You could argue whether that should have been the plan from the start.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Financial constraints doesn’t necessarily mean they are without any money to spend at all.

      Teams can be constrained without being broke.

      • TOOT

        Exactly. I’m not afraid to make it more personal. If I have $420,000 in my savings acount, $8,000 is a mere 2% of that.

      • hansman

        The Yankees have a perceived constraint in the luxury tax threshold…

        • TOOT

          Yanks have no constraints, sorry to say. “Perceived” yes. But a political debate.

          • hansman

            They are, by all accounts, holding themselves to getting under that figure. It is a constraint.

            I said perceived because they are simply pulling a number out of a hat and saying “BELOW THAT NUMBER!!!!!”. Perceived wasn’t the right word there.

            • Kyle

              Not all accounts anymore. There was some stuff floating around today that Hank Steinbrenner had given permission to break it.

              • hansman

                They must be looking to blow it wide open then or eyeing a Kemp trade.

              • TOOT

                Yes. And is there any reason to doubt he will not.

  • nashvillecub

    Understood. Semantics. That’s why I say use this offseason’s resources, especially considering what has transpired, to invest the same way you have in the past two years. What other choice is there? We’re deeply invested that the farm studs two years away will produce and produce in their first years, and then we add to that roster. I pray that works.

    • Brains

      it wont. and they don’t think that it will. they’ve been around a long time. it’s just PR deferment work while they wait for the ricketts to open pocketbooks. once we can past this illusion we can start talking about the team for real. until they it’s rote speculation about what magic will occur by some well-ranked minor leaguers who might or might not even make it to the majors. pitiful.

  • AD

    Although Choo has terrible splits against lefties, he was still able to post .347 OBP vs them in 2013. Wouldn’t pay over 90 million for him though.

    • hansman

      If you regress his HBP back to a more normal amount he quickly drops in the .315-.320 range against LHP.

      Not bad but that’s tough to swallow.

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  • Aaron

    Ownership needs give Cubs’ fans a taste of hope every so often to keep them in check. I believe the team did talk to Choo’s representatives to let them know that if they are absolutely desperate to sign a 3 or 4 year deal for no more than $15m per year, then we have a contract for you to sign. I’m certain that deal would NOT include a no trade clause.

    This is not a knock on the ownership or FO. It’s their way of doing business in light of their overall master plan to build from the ground up and take revenues from the club to pay down debt and put back into the remodeling of Wrigley Field.

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