The Shin-Soo Choo sweepstakes ended this morning when the Texas Rangers inked the 31-year-old South Korean outfielder for $130 million over seven years. The deal may come as a shock to Yankee fans who saw Choo turn down $140 million over seven years not too long ago, and it may come as a disappointment to Mets fans who saw Choo still on the market and started dreaming about a shiny, new leadoff hitter. After the initial letdown, though, the Mets will realize they won’t be missing Shin-Soo Choo in 2014 and beyond.
Coming into the offseason, the Mets had major holes in the outfield, but those holes were filled by the Chris Young and Curtis Granderson signings. Sandy Alderson and Terry Collins already have a surplus of outfielders on roster and will have to strain to figure out how defending NL steals champion Eric Young will get his fair share of plate appearances. Signing Choo would only make the problem worse, as the Youngs and Juan Lagares would all be competing for one outfield spot, assuming Choo and Granderson would be full-time starters. Foregoing Choo limits the outfield challenge and allows Alderson to focus on filling the hole at shortstop, possibly with an under-suited Stephen Drew.
Choo’s stats were indeed impressive; his mid-.800s OPS and 20 steals would have brought speed to the early lineup. But how much longer could Choo have sustained those numbers? Choo turns 32 in July, and he will be 38 by the time his Texas contract ends in 2020. It’s more than likely Choo’s decline will start by 2015, if not next year. The Rangers will be feeling the sting from this signing almost immediately, especially when his legs start to break down.
Lest we forget, it was only two years ago that the Mets were hesitant to give extra years to another leg-reliant free agent. Alderson didn’t want to give a sixth year to Jose Reyes, who was 28 when he signed his megadeal with the Miami Marlins. Imagine the kind of money a 28-year-old speedy shortstop would be getting in 2013; $106 million over six years would be a downright steal, and the team to sign him would surely want to keep him beyond his 34-year-old season. Shin-Soo Choo is three years older than Jose Reyes was in his free agency and is getting an extra year and an extra $24 million. As much as it hurt to see Reyes go, seeing him struggle to stay healthy at age 30 may lead Met fans to accept that letting him go was the right move. Seeing Choo break down with even more money in his pocket will lead Met fans to bless the day Alderson decided not to pull the trigger.
Sandy has built his reputation as a bargain hunter; the Granderson signing at $60 million over four years was his biggest free agent contract to date. The Mets will not regret his commitment to payroll flexibility, and they will not regret sitting out the chase for Shin-Soo Choo.