The latest surge of speculation started with a Tweet from John Gambadoro of KTAR 620:
Free Agent and leadoff specialist Shin-Soo Choo could be a target of Diamondbacks. Hit .285 with on base% of .423.— John Gambadoro (@Gambo620) October 22, 2013
Now, Gambo does have a fairly-decent track record of accuracy in such things, but more when getting down to specifics. This is vague, general rosterbation, and needs to be treated as such. There's no doubt Choo is among the top free-agent prospects this winter, trailing only Robinson Cano and Jacoby Ellsbury in MLB Trade Rumors' Free Agent Power Rankings, and you don't have to look very hard to find examples of just about every team being linked to Choo. For example, two minutes of lackadaisical Googling gave me:
- Yankees: Big names -- including McCann, Beltran and Choo -- on Yankee menu
- Astros: Low-payroll Astros could make play for Choo
- Tigers: Tigers could address their leadoff woes with Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo
- Mariners: Should Mariners Bring Back Shin-Soo Choo?
If the Astros are supposedly in on Choo, that pretty much proves anyone is. But to me, the reasons not to sign Choo are a great deal more compelling.
1. What, another outfielder?
The Diamondbacks outfield for 2014 would appear already to be set, with Gerardo Parra, Adam Eaton, A.J. Pollock and (health permitting) Cody Ross all signed, and Martin Prado also potentially in the mix, if the team decides that Matt Davidson can handle the job of third-base full-time. While there has been some discussion about the need for power-hitting corner output, Choo's career high is 22 home-runs, probably less than we might expect from a fully-healthy Aaron Hil (he had 26 in 2012). And, as we'll see, any offensive value he brings has to balanced against his defensive deficiencies.
2. He's a Scott Boras client
There have been ludicrous claims that an offer of "$9-12 million annually over three years" would put the Diamondbacks "in the running." No. Just.... no. Not even if Choo, who lives with his wife and children here in Arizona, gave us a severe hometown discount, and that's hardly likely considering who his agent is. Boras is great at his job: getting the most money for his clients. That does not necessarily align with what's best for the team. Tim Dierkes estimated Choo is looking at a six-year, $100 million deal, but Boras is aiming even higher, citing the deal for another of his clients, Jayson Werth, worth $126 million, as a comparable.
3. Paying for a career season from a 31-year-old
Sure,. Choo put up 5.2 fWAR for the Reds this year. But if you look at the past trio of seasons, his average works out at slightly below three WAR. He'll turn 32 next July, and you've got to suspect that decline is more likely in his future than any improvement, or even sustaining the current level of performance. Even a more restrained four-year contract would seem problematic. Know how many outfielders aged 34 or older were worth even 2.5 bWAR in 2013? Two. Werth and Marlon Byrd. You might get value out of $15 million for Choo this season or next: beyond that, it's an increasingly dodgy proposition.
4. Offensive defense
Choo has been godawful in the outfield over the past two seasons, to put it mildly. His UZR over that time is -32.2. That's the worst in the majors, and it's not even close, with the second-worst at less than half that (Dexter Fowler, -15.5) - worth noting, Gerardo Parra is #1, at +38.7. Put another way, over 2012 and 2013, Parra was more than seventy runs better defensively than Choo. Part of that may be down to Choo taking one for the team and playing CF for Cincinnati, when that's not his best position. But the evidence to support Boras's statement that the outfielder is "a Gold Glove type defender in right field," seems flimsy, to put it mildly.
5. Payroll limitations
We'll get more into this soon, but in Tuesday's Republic Kevin Towers said we'll "definitely" be above last year's payroll of $90m, and "possibly" as high as $100m. However, this is hardly news if you looked at the relevant page on Baseball Reference. Existing commitments, plus anticipated rises for arbitration-eligible players, basically swallow up that entire increase, with an estimated payroll for 2014 of $99.6 million for the current roster. While there might be some minor savings (the article calls the non-tendering of Tony Sipp "expected"), it seems just about all the cost of Choo would have to come from cuts elsewhere. That'd potentially create a bigger hole than it fills.
6. Something something platoon guy
Choo can't hit left-handers. Even this season, his line against them was .215/.347/.265, a .612 OPS, and that's not far off his career number (.680). Now, that obviously means he destroyed right-handed pitching this season, and given righties threw over 70% of the PAs in the majors this season, it's certainly a preferable platoon split than the other way round - *coughCodyRoss*. But Choo's splits are even more extreme than Ross's, with a career 252 OPS difference, compared to Cody's 222. it's an obvious weakness, and one which opposing managers will certainly attack with left-handed relievers.
None of these would necessarily be a problem on their own, but combine them all together, and you've got enough red flags to stage throwback night at the Kremlin. While there may be a need to strengthen our offense, the odds are that someone will severely overpay this winter for Choo's services. I sincerely hope it's not the Diamondbacks.