Shin-Soo Choo will bring a much-needed skill to the Rangers: on-base ability from the left side.It’s being reported that the Texas Rangers and OF Shin-Soo Choo have agreed to a seven-year, $130 million contract.
Are they worth it? To find out, let’s take a look at the 28 unique contracts for non-pitchers worth at least $100 million handed out that have been in effect since at least the 2013 season (including both of Alex Rodriguez’s huge deals).
Of those 28, players averaged 5.7 Wins Above Replacement in the season prior to the contract starting, and 4.2 WAR in the first season of the new deal.
From the second year on, that sample of 28 never again averaged 4 WAR a season as a group, though their collective decline is much less dramatic than it's been for pitchers.
Nine of those contracts have played out to completion with a wide range of production. Albert Pujols (8.2 WAR per season over eight seasons) and Alex Rodriguez (8.1 WAR over seven seasons) remained remarkably productive, but Ken Griffey Jr. (1.5 WAR over nine seasons) and Carlos Lee (1.5 WAR over six seasons) failed to return value.
Largest Contracts by Total Value Outfielders in MLB History
More specifically to Choo’s situation, there have been 15 free-agent contracts handed out to position players worth at least $100M. Their return-on-investment has been similarly unimpressive. The players saw their WAR drop from 5.9 in the year prior to signing the deal, to 4.3 in year one, declining steadily to a paltry 1.8 WAR in year six.
Combining position players and pitchers, there have been 10 free-agent contracts of at least $100 million issued to players 30 years or older at the time the contract began (Choo is 31). The results are startling.
This crop of players produced an average of 6 WAR in the season before signing their new massive contract. In the first year of the deal, that dropped to 4.9, and the group's average permanently dips below 3 WAR per season by year three.
In the sixth and seventh years combined, none of the eight players posted at least 3 WAR. (As a point of reference, some players who had a 3 WAR this past season were Mark Ellis, Francisco Liriano and Norichika Aoki).
HOW HE HELPS THE RANGERS
Choo’s calling card is his ability to get on base. His .423 OBP in 2013 was fourth in the majors, and was the fifth-best by any lefty outfielder in the past 10 seasons (Barry Bonds, J.D. Drew, and Bobby Abreu twice).
The Pirates and Marlins were the only teams with a lower OBP from their left-handed batters than the Rangers last season.
After an injury and off-the-field-trouble plagued him in 2011 (tied for 60th in WAR among MLB OF), Choo has quickly bounced back to re-establish himself as a borderline All-Star (T-17th last season).
AREA OF CONCERN
Shin-Soo Choo vs LHP
One of the concerns with Choo has been his struggles against left-handers -- his slugging percentage has dropped nearly 90 points since 2011, and he’s hitting line drives at a much lower rate.
Over the past two seasons, righties have taken 66 percent of the Rangers’ plate appearances, 3rd-most in MLB in that span.
Choo will likely be a corner outfielder for the Rangers. He played 1,333 innings in centerfield for the Reds and had -17 Defensive Runs Saved, by far the fewest in the league among qualified center fielders.
From 2009-12, Choo played right field for Cleveland and had 0 DRS, which is average.
-- Contract information provided by Justin Havens