Mac Engel

Choo is on the clock or his deal is DFW’s worst this century

Shin-Soo Choo played his third game of this spring-training season and — fantastic news — The Choo Choo train is still on the track and not on the disabled list.

With Choo, we are conditioned to wait for the other shoe to drop. Or the hamstring to pop. Or the ankle to roll.

On Wednesday, Choo played right field and finished 0-for-2 with a strikeout looking in four innings of a fake game against the California Angels. This is the start of him establishing himself as a player for this franchise or the beginning of his end here.

Hope for the former, prepare for the latter.

Before Wednesday, the last time we saw Choo was Game 1 of the Rangers’ ALDS series against the Toronto Blue Jays. He did not play in Games 2 or 3 — kinda like his teammates.

This is what we need to accept about Choo: He’s a wonderful hitter that manager Jeff Banister can’t rely on as a consistent member of his lineup. Choo is an injury-prone 34-year-old the Rangers stupidly overpaid for, a guy whose best years were behind him.

Right now he is the team’s Opening Day right fielder, but this is only slightly sturdier than Josh Hamilton’s knees.

Few guys in this town have been more well-meaning and cursed than The Choo.

I asked Banister what the team can do this spring, if anything, in an effort to preserve their talented hitter.

“We can ask the other pitchers not to hit him on the wrist,” Banister said.

At this point why not?

Choo went on the DL for a fourth time last August when he was hit on the wrist by A’s reliever Ross Detwiler.

The horrendous seven-year, $130 million contract the Rangers gave him is not his fault, yet history says he will not be here long enough to see the end of the deal with this team. We are blessed with sports owners who will flush guys if they aren’t worth it.

Choo is locked in a death battle with former Rangers pitcher Chan Ho Park for The Worst Contract in DFW this century.

Coincidentally, they are both from South Korea. Not coincidentally, they are both represented by Mr. Mephistopheles, who is more commonly referred to by his stage name: Scott Boras.

In three seasons with the Rangers, Choo has appeared in 320 games and batted .258. I don’t care what his WAR is — his numbers ain’t good and are not worth it.

The only time the Rangers saw the player they signed was during the second half of the 2015 season, when he was the best hitter in the American League. In that stretch he batted .343 with an on-base percentage of .455, 11 home runs and 44 RBIs. He was a fantasy player’s fantasy.

He’s a good pro and he cares, but as a Ranger he’s been mostly fantasy tease and his deal a GM nightmare. Choo is now an Executive Platinum member of the Rangers Disabled List; he’s been on it five times in three years.

Between the cash, the contract and the numbers, his deal is as bad as, or worse than, some of the very worst our town has ever seen.

Big bad deals

Enjoy these numbers:

▪ Mavs guard Michael Finley, 2001: Seven years, $102.3 million. A nice player whom the Mavs signed to this extension in 2001; he was so mediocre that the Mavs used an NBA amnesty clause to ax him after the fifth year.

▪ Mavs forward Raef LaFrentz: Seven years, $70 million. Mavs owner Mark Cuban liked him, so he buried him in cash. Despite the fact he was not good, the Mavs were able to trade him one year later.

▪ Mavs center Erick Dampier, 2004: Seven years, $73 million. The big man the Mavs coveted was actually the starting center on a team that reached the NBA Finals, but he never warranted this kind of money. He just didn’t care that much, and was gone with one year remaining on his deal.

▪ Rangers pitcher Chan Ho Park, 2002: Five years, $65 million. A fragile headcase who was 22-23 with a 5.89 ERA with the team; he was dumped in the middle of his final season.

▪ Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez, 2001: 10 years, $252 million. He won an MVP here but the contract proved too big for then-owner Tom Hicks, and he was dealt to the New York Yankees after his third season.

▪ Cowboys running back Marion Barber, 2008: Seven years, $45 million, $16 million guaranteed. Proof you never pay running backs, especially ones who seek contact rather than avoid it. The Barbarian’s production dropped dramatically after he signed this contract. He lasted two years after signing this deal and was out of football after the 2011 season.

▪ Cowboys receiver Roy Williams, 2008: Five years, $45 million, $20 million guaranteed. The team traded a first- and a third-round pick to Detroit to acquire the former UT star. One of the worst moves Cowboys owner Jerry Jones ever made — let that sink in.

▪ Stars forward Sean Avery, 2008: Four years, $15.5 million. A room-killer with a big mouth and a bad attitude for an average player. He lasted 23 games and scored no goals for the Stars before he was waived.

▪ Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, 2013: Six years, $108 million, $55 million guaranteed. He was brilliant in 2014, but has appeared in five games since then. Dak Prescott fell from heaven into Jerry’s lap, meaning Romo will be elsewhere next season, possibly Denver.

Other than the obvious, the common thread for all of these players is they were cut or traded before the end of their deals. The management on each team felt it was better to flush the dough than to let it play out on the field.

Choo is healthy, and with four years remaining on his deal, he still has the commitment from his bosses to let it play out. It begins now, or this is the beginning of the end.

Listen to Mac Engel every Tuesday and Thursday on Shan & RJ from 5:30 to 10 a.m. on 105.3 The Fan.

Mac Engel: 817-390-7697, @macengelprof

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