If you were to sum up the Reds 2012 season, you’d say that they were a lead off hitter short of advancing further in the playoffs. Then came December 11th, 2012: Reds acquire Shin-Soo Choo in three-team trade. Classic lead off hitter? No. Speed demon? No. But Choo did have that uncanny ability to get on base, his .381 career OBP fit the bill perfectly at the top of the order.
All Shin-Soo Choo did in 2013 was just that; get on base by any means necessary. 162 hits + 112 walks + 26 HBP = 300 times on base. That’s right, Choo got on base three-hundred times to pair with Joey Votto (316) as only the third set of teammates to reach that feat in the last 75 years. The only pairs of teammates to get on base 300 times each before the ‘Votto Choo Machine’ were Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams on the ’99 Yankees and Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell on the ’97 Astros over that span. Moneyball!
Other than get on base 300 times, Choo hit .285-21-54 with 34 doubles while scoring 107 runs off his robust .423 OBP, which was 2nd in the league only to Joey Votto (.435). He even had enough speed on the base paths to swipe 20 bags and put together his 3rd career 20/20 season. Shin-Soo Choo joins Joe Morgan as the only players in Reds history to produce 30 doubles, 20 home runs, 20 steals, 100 walks and 100 runs scored in a season. You couldn’t ask for anything more out of the lead off spot.
So now what? You knew Shin-Soo Choo was a stop-gap in CF until Billy Hamilton was ready after a full year in AAA. You knew when Walt Jocketty acquired Choo that he was a free agent after 2013. Super Agent Scott Boras has already parlayed Choo’s dominant season into claiming that $100 Million is actually low for his services. Time to move on, right?
How do you replace Shin-Soo Choo’s production? If you are Walt Jocketty, how do you take the $16.67 Million per year it will likely cost to retain him and divide it among 2 to 3 players to duplicate it? The simple answer is you can’t.
Cincinnati has a few things going for them in the pursuit of Choo. Reportedly he and his wife enjoy the city, which is a huge plus. It’s also prevalent that Choo loves his new teammates and enjoyed making the post season with them for the first time in his career. Another plus is that the Reds will be presenting the $14.1 Million “Qualifying Offer” to him which guarantees them a compensation pick. Even though Choo will decline the “Qualifying Offer” to explore the free agent market, this gives the Reds an advantage where a lot of teams will not be willing to give up draft picks for free agents.
So who will the Reds be competing with for Shin-Soo Choo? It’s been speculated that the New York Yankees will be in play to try and replace outfielders they’ve lost last off-season (Nick Swisher) and this fall with Curtis Granderson likely moving on. Just looking in the same city there have been many reports that the New York Mets are hot after Choo with all the money they have coming off the books this year. Other teams to look out for is the Detroit Tigers who have plenty of lead-off woes and the darkhorse Houston Astros who have very little payroll obligations on the books in the foreseeable future and Choo would be a player they could build their deep farm system around.
I will leave you with a bright spot of hope and it comes from Walt Jocketty’s interview with Lance McCalister:
“In Choo’s heart I think he really enjoyed playing here & loved the city. If it is truly up to him, I think he will stay.” ~ Walt Jocketty