It was one of the more hotly debated topics of the entire off-season: What should the Cincinnati Reds do with Shin-Soo Choo? The long-time Cleveland Indians outfielder had come over to the Redlegs at the start of 2013 in a three-team trade that saw the club jettison former underwhelming centerfielder Drew Stubbs.
Without the aid of Choo, it is highly unlikely the Reds would have even made it to the wildcard playoff game against the Pittsburgh Pirates last season. While he would homer in an eventual loss, there was virtually no chance the two sides could agree on a deal.
The month of September was Billy Hamilton’s time to shine. Stealing 13 bases in 13 games and taking the baseball world by storm, Hamilton was more than a base-stealing minor league phenomenon. He had all but told the game’s premier defensive catcher in Yadier Molina that he was running and he swiped the bag anyway.
Even in context of a supremely small sample size, Hamilton would go 7-for-19 and score nine runs during his first taste of the big leagues. He impressed so much defensively that coming into 2014, the Reds felt comfortable handing him not only the reigns in centerfield, but the leadoff spot in the batting order as well.
Allowing Shin-Soo Choo to walk and giving Billy Hamilton an opportunity to shine was a move of shear genius, one that saved the Reds significant financial distress for years to come.
In the likely event you have neglected to follow up on how Choo has performed with his new club, the Texas Rangers, here is a statistical breakdown:
Choo, 2014: .239/.353/.367, 9 HR, 34 RBI, 3 SB, 0.1 WAR (down from 4.2 last year), -1.5 dWAR
In comparison, look at Hamilton:
Hamilton, 2014: .281/.312/.421, 6 HR, 40 RBI, 40 SB, 2.6 WAR, 1.1 dWAR
If both Choo and Hamilton were on the exact same level playing field as far as contracts were concerned, Hamilton would more than likely still have the edge due to his defense and baserunning ability. Of course, this is not the case.
Scott Boras, arguably the most successful agent in baseball history, represents Choo. Doing a remarkable job for his client, Boras raked in a 7-year/$130 million deal for his client that will run through the 2020 campaign. Having just turned 32 years old, Choo will make $21 million his final two years in Arlington, seasons where he will be 36 and 37 years of age.
On the other hand, Hamilton is making a whopping $500,000 this season. He does not even become arbitration eligible until 2017, giving the Reds two more years of complete control, until three years of arbitration precede him becoming a free agent in 2020.
When Choo’s $130 million has been shelled out, the Reds (if they wait) will just be getting their teeth sunken into paying Hamilton.
As this most recent situation has proven, sometimes the best moves front offices can make are the ones they don’t.