As usual, Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels was playing a bit coy Wednesday at the media luncheon, reiterating that he didn't expect his club to make any "major" deals. Of course, on Wednesday, the club might not have been as close as it thought it would get on the terms of the Shin-Soo Choo deal. But Christmas is a time for giving and receiving, and manager Ron Washington gets an early gift from Santa in the form of a leadoff hitter. At least, that's the likely spot for him, although he also could hit somewhere in the middle of the lineup.
It took a seventh year and about $130 million to agree to terms, but the Rangers determined that a big bat in the outfield was something they had to invest in this offseason. Honestly, I thought unless Choo came down to six years that Texas wasn't going to get this done, but we don't know all the contract details. If you take a big-picture approach and look at the hitting options in free agency next season, it doesn't wow anybody. Perhaps that's one reason the Rangers decided to go the seventh year on Choo. They did stick to their belief that they weren't going to give him the Jacoby Ellsbury deal; Ellsbury will earn nearly $22 million on average each year, and Choo is looking at something around $18.5 million on average over the same time span.
Before the Choo deal, Texas was looking at Leonys Martin at the leadoff spot, but that would have put a relatively unknown quantity at the top of a lineup that struggled to score runs consistently last year. Now, Choo can slot right in, Martin can move down the order and the Rangers get appreciably better. If that's the route they choose.
It also gives the Rangers some options. They could slide Choo over to right field and move Alex Rios to right or just leave Rios in right and have Choo play left with Martin in center. Choo played mainly center field last year, but, when he has played the corner spots, it's been much more right field (588 career games) than left field (61 games). So, Washington and his staff can take a look and figure out where each player is comfortable.
What will be interesting to watch is how Choo's contract looks down the line. His splits against left-handed pitchers are well-chronicled, as he hit just .215 against them last year and, in his career, his average has been considerably lower versus southpaws than right-handed hurlers. Will that make him a long-term platoon player? Texas is betting it won't because of his high on-base percentage. But that's something to watch.
Kudos to Scott Boras, who waited a bit on Choo and still got the seven years he wanted. But this was also no Ellsbury deal in terms of salary.
Choo makes the Rangers better in 2014. There's no question about that. And they had to step a bit out of their comfort zone to get it done. It's another reminder that you never count Daniels, the front office and this ownership group out -- no matter what the budget looks like.
It would stand to reason that this dramatically lowers the club's chances at Masahiro Tanaka. But there's no way I'm going to tell you they're completely out on him, either. You never know what the Rangers might do.