In a thin free agent market for hitters, Shin-Soo Choo sticks out as one of the few appealing outfield bats. After posting an eye-popping .423 on-base percentage during his first season in the National League, Choo is bound to attract the interest of several clubs with outfield holes to fill.
Despite putting up strong offensive numbers as a corner outfielder, Choo was a perennially underrated hitter until recently. In his first season with the Reds, Choo hit .285/.423/.462 and helped lead the team into the playoffs. He was miscast as a center fielder, but most teams will look at him as a corner outfielder where his defense is expected to be better, although still below average.
A career .288/.389/.465 hitter, Choo suffers from a dramatic career platoon split: .309/.411/.521 against righties, .243/.340/.341 against lefties.
While some baseball executives peg Choo to make between $90 and $100 million, his agent, Scott Boras, expects even more. Boras is the best at hyping up his clients —sometimes successfully— so feel free to take those numbers with a grain of salt.
Hunter Pence, who many would argue isn’t as good as Choo, just received a five-year, $90 million deal to stay with the Giants. Last year, a much younger but also less productive B.J. Upton signed a five-year, $75.25 million contract with the Braves.
If Pence’s contract is an outlier, Choo could receive something similar, but if Boras successfully spins that deal in his client’s favor then he could get an even larger contract, perhaps both in years and average annual value. As a reminder, Jayson Werth got seven years, $126 million. Choo’s next contract could be worth five years and $85 to $95 million.
Choo will receive a qualifying offer from the Reds but is a lock to reject it and pursue free agency. The Mets' first pick is protected, but signing Choo would cost them their second round pick. Some teams might not feel Choo is worth losing their first pick, but the effect on his future contract could be minimal.
Choo is the kind of high-OBP outfield bat that the Mets could desperately use. Last year’s outfield performed far better than expected because of the surprising performance of Juan Lagares and Marlon Byrd’s career year. The front office can’t expect the same in 2014, especially without Byrd.
The Mets have some intriguing outfield prospects —specifically young Brandon Nimmo and the recently suspended Cesar Puello— but they are hardly guarantees to help the team any time soon.
Next year’s outfield free agent class looks even thinner, and if the team can’t work out a trade, this year's class might be their best chance to improve the outfield. Even with a productive Choo, the 2014 Mets wouldn’t be improving that much over what they got from Byrd in 2013. But if Sandy Alderson feels the 31-year-old will continue to produce into his mid-30s, Choo could be the best available option.