Cubs’ pursuit of Choo must be handled carefully


Aug 12, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Cincinnati Reds center fielder

Shin-Soo Choo

(17) warms up before the game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, we covered reports that the Chicago Cubs are likely to pursue outfielder Shin-Soo Choo in the offseason here. We also promised a breakdown of the potential signing, and whether or not we thought it would be the right move for the organization moving forward. Well, folks. Here it is.

Shin-Soo Choo is an on-base machine. No, really. How he does it is amazing. He will himself on base of late, to the tune of an incredible OBP of .416 with Cincinnati this season, which ranks fourth in all of Major League Baseball – trailing only Mike Trout, Miguel Cabrera and Reds’ teammate Joey Votto.

You might think that 2013 is simply an anomaly in his career, but that’s simply not the case. Yes, granted, it’s a tad higher than in years’ past, but his numbers are still impressive looking back. Over the course of nine professional seasons in the big leagues, his on-base percentage of .387 is nothing to turn your head at.

Turning our attention to defense for just a moment, Choo has made more than four errors in a season only once in nine years, when he committed seven errors as an Indians outfielder in 2009. This year, he has played primarily in center field, which is a new position for the South Korean native, but still has made just three errors in roughly 300 chances. If he signs with Chicago, it appears quite likely that he spends the majority of his time in a corner outfield spot.

Choo is a dangerous bat to handle. He would offer Chicago a left-handed bat that can hit for power, at time, while combining an excellent hitter’s approach with above-average speed. In 2009 and 2010, Choo hit 22 and 20 home runs, respectively, while driving in an average of 88 runs over those two campaigns. His power numbers are still relatively the same, but his RBI totals have declined sharply in the past two years, part of which can be attributed to the fact that he’s been batting at the top of the lineup.

Currently, catcher Dioner Navarro leads the Cubs in terms of on-base percentage, and that’s with splitting the catching duties with Welington Castillo, who also ranks near the top of that list. Of players who have notched more than 100 games this year for Chicago, outfielder Nate Schierholtz leads the pack with an on-base percentage of .326, a full 61 points lower than the career average of Choo.

Sounds like a great move, right? Gets on base, hits, runs and plays solid defense. But just wait, there’s more.

First off, he’s represented by Scott Boras. This man is the best at what he does. A lot of fans hate him, but no one can argue: he gets the most money for his clients, no matter what. He is expected to seek a four-year deal worth approximately $60 million for Choo, which would take him through his age 35 season, which is typically on the downhill side of a player’s career.

The Cubs should be wary of such a deal, not because it stretches the club financially. Rather, they should look to avoid signing players whose productivity could decline near the end of their respective deals. That being said, if Chicago can talk down Boras to a three year, $45 million deal or even four years for $50 million, the deal would make more sense in the long-term for the organization.