Shin-Soo Choo showed up Dec. 18, perhaps to the surprise of some and to the disappointment of others, at Cook Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth to help spread Christmas cheer to some patients and families who could really use it.
Choo could have probably used a little, too, as the player whose contract is considered burdensome and an obstacle to the Texas Rangers scoring a big-dollar, top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher this off-season.
(Reminder: Ownership can afford Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke or Alex Cobb without dumping any player’s contract.)
Choo has been told of the stories and rumors involving him, and he gets it. He doesn’t like it, because he now considers North Texas his home and won’t relocate if traded, but he gets it.
“What do you think?” Choo said. “That’s part of baseball. That’s part of the deal. Nobody is happy to hear them in trade rumors. I’ve played four years here. I have a great feeling for the Rangers, but at the same time I understand the team’s situation. Actually, I’m not really worried about it.”
The Rangers were linked to Greinke at the winter meetings, and sources said that Arizona would have to take Choo’s contract to make the acquisition of Greinke’s mega deal easier to stomach.
Darvish, Arrieta, Cobb, Lance Lynn and Andrew Casher remain unsigned.
The owners, meanwhile, have left general manager Jon Daniels to explain that the Rangers have no money to spend. These are the same owners who agreed to offer Choo $130 million spread over seven seasons to get on base and score runs.
When he’s been healthy, that’s exactly what Choo has done. He has mixed in some power, too, and in 2017 played more in right field than expected and did so without being a liability.
Yet, it seems as if the two seasons in which he was injured, especially his first in 2014 and again in 2016, are all people want to acknowledge about him. They’re part of his story, no doubt, but not the full story.
The real story is that this isn’t a player the Rangers should want to trade.
“I don’t know 100 percent fan perception as it goes, but I think a lot of time players — in all sports — are judged relative to how they were acquired,” general manager Jon Daniels said. “Everybody loves the scrappy wide receiver that was taken in the sixth round, but the scrappy wide receiver who was a first-round pick, it’s like, ‘Why isn’t he better?’
“The size of the contract, things of that nature, affects how people are perceived. He had an unbelievable season for Cincinnati in ’13, but we didn’t necessarily expect him to maintain that. He’s been very productive. He’s been extremely productive.”
Do the Rangers win the American League West in 2015 without Choo? “No,” Daniels said. “He was our best player down the stretch.”
Do the Rangers have anyone on the roster who can get on base the way Choo does and where he does it in the lineup? No.
Delino DeShields has a chance to be a nice on-base hitter after posting a .347 OBP in 2018, but that was 10 points below Choo’s team lead among qualifying players. (Robinson Chirinos posted a .360 OBP but didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify.)
Adrian Beltre can be a higher-OBP guy, but he bats fourth. Joey Gallo, who lead the 2017 Rangers with 4.23 pitches per plate appearance (Choo saw 4.00), and Nomar Mazara have a chance to reach more, but, again, they don’t bat atop the lineup.
For all the financial flexibility a Choo trade would generate for the Rangers, in theory enough to acquire a big-time starting pitcher, the offense would take a serious hit.
As Daniels said, Choo has been extremely productive.