Earlier today, Jeff Passan reported that Shin-Soo Choo, coming off a .285/.423/.462 season with the Reds, turned down a seven-year, $140 million deal with the Yankees, looking instead for either the $153 million contract that Jacoby Ellsbury received or his own private borough of New York. The belief, apparently shared between Shin-Soo Choo and his agent, Scott Boras, is that there's another offer out there that will top it, and they just have to stick to their game plan/treasure map to find it.
Unfortunately for the duo, since the Dodgers have roughly 20 outfielders (give or take), and with the Yankees having already signed Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, the two biggest markets have no room, unless Major League Baseball decides to change the rules of the game, necessitating four starting outfielders.
So the question remains, did Scott Boras overplay his hand?
Well, no. Of course not. I mean, this is Scott Boras. He doesn't make mistakes. If he did, he wouldn't be Scott Boras, Super Agent, he'd be Scott Boras, Exotic Reptile dealer. Boras has played this game long enough and knows that you simply need to wait. Someone will get desperate, like a parent on Christmas Eve, eagerly shelling out a little extra cash just to make sure everyone's happy the next morning.
It doesn't hurt that Choo is not only the best remaining free agent this year, but he's the best free agent next season, too. If you're looking for an outfielder in 2015, you better hope you can land Brett Gardner, otherwise you'll be welcoming the 39-year-old Torii Hunter to the fold. Or hey, maybe Mike Morse will have a comeback year, though he's already proven he's more of a DH than an outfielder.
Even the most attractive names for next season like Hanley Ramirez or Pablo Sandoval may end up re-signing with their current clubs, a trend that has led to the current market of fourth outfielders and late-inning relievers.
Choo, thanks to his ability play anywhere in the outfield (just not particularly well, posting a -29 DRS over the last two seasons), and willingness to take a walk, would provide an upgrade to nearly every team, whether it's in right, left, or center. Though he doesn't have a lone standout skill, Choo can be counted on to hit somewhere around .300, suck in walks and hit-by-pitches like a black hole, and hit 20 or so home runs. If you were to create the ideal all-around hitter in a laboratory, it would look something like that.
Oddly enough, the current prevailing rumor is that the Astros are in on Choo, one GM saying earlier this month that he expects Houston to walk away with him. But even though the Jeff Luhnow-led squad have shown they're beginning to turn the corner, adding pieces like Dexter Fowler instead of hoarding minor league wealth, Choo's best seasons would likely be before the team was truly ready to compete.
As a 30-year-old human being, assuming Choo hasn't located the Amulet of Ibanez, becoming a better hitter as he ages, the bulk of Choo's value will come in the next two to three seasons. Add in Choo's already declining defensive range and his inability to hit lefties (.215/.347/.265 in 2013), and it doesn't make sense for the Astros to sign him and lose out on their second round draft pick next year.
Of course, the Tigers trade of Prince Fielder is proof that it is possible to unload long-term burdens in today's game, so the Astros could sign Choo with the expectation that they would trade him before the contract is up, tossing in some cash to grease the wheels. Add in the influx of money from new TV deals and worrying about ballplayer salaries is almost gauche, like fretting about the cost of stemware at an East Egg party.
Which is why Scott Boras isn't worried. There will come a team, perhaps the Boston Red Sox, when they realize that counting on Daniel Nava, Jonny Gomes, and Jackie Bradley is not the best way to repeat as World Series champions, and they will run to him, bearing heaping loads of cash.
Or the Rangers, reportedly having already made Choo a seven-year offer, will toss in the extra year, money, or Dave & Buster's gift cards that Choo requested to make it happen.
Or the Tigers, without a true starting left fielder, Rajai Davis and Andy Dirks not warming Dave Dombrowski's heart, will sign him, money be damned, erecting a statue of Choo next to the one of Robocop.
Or a surprise team will enter the fray. Someone out there will want Choo, become obsessed with him, and just have to have him, damn the price. Some GM, whether through peer pressure, ownership demands, or an evening with just a few too many drinks, will decide to give in to Boras' demands, hoping that the extra money it took to sign Choo is preferable to him landing with a divisional rival.
And that's why players like Choo can demand whatever price they deem worthy. Because no matter what, some team out there would rather spend a little extra and get the player they want, rather than end up with the fat and trimmings at the end of the offseason.
With the premier free agents already off the board for the next two seasons, Shin-Soo Choo is the market. And he'll get his money.
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