Scouting The Trade Market: Shin-Soo Choo

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What Went Wrong: April Hughes (and more!)
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The Yankees need to bring in a starting-caliber outfielder this winter and while free agency is the easiest way to satisfy that need, it’s not the only way. Brian Cashman has used trades to plug outfield holes three times in the last five years (Xavier Nady, Nick Swisher, and Curtis Granderson) and could very easily do it against this winter. Outside of Swisher, Josh Hamilton, and Torii Hunter, the free agent outfield market really isn’t all that appetizing.

One player who could easily wind up on the trade market this offseason is Shin-Soo Choo of the Indians. Cleveland is in perpetual rebuilding mode and Choo, a Scott Boras client who is unlikely to sign with the team long-term, will be a free agent after next season (MLBTR projects a $7.9M salary for 2013). Reports this summer indicated that GM Chris Antonetti will (again) listen to trade offers for his club’s top outfielder after making contract extension offers “multiple times” in recent years. The 30-year-old appears to be a perfect fit for the Yankees on paper, but let’s dig a little deeper…

The Pros

  • Choo fits the Yankees’ mold of power and patience from the left side. He hit .283/.373/.441 (131 wRC+) this year (131 wRC+ over the last three years as well) with an ISO (.159) and walk rate (10.6%) that were a bit below his career norms (.176 and 11.4%). Progressive Field is one of the most neutral parks in baseball, so he was neither hurt nor helped by his home stadium.
  • Choo can really hit to left field. His 205 wRC+ the other way was the ninth highest in baseball this year and sixth among left-handed hitters. Since 2010, his 194 wRC+ to the opposite field ranks seventh in baseball and fourth among left-handed hitters. Here are his spray charts from 2012 and 2010-2012 so you can see for yourself.
  • In addition to the power and patience, Choo will provide value with his legs. He’s stolen 20+ bases three times in the last four years, including 2012. He’s surprisingly adept at stealing third base as well, making it six times in seven attempts over the last two seasons.
  • Choo has one of the very best outfield arms in baseball, so he’s capable of making throws like this and this. His 30 outfield assists are the seventh most in baseball over the last three years, but more importantly, he’s prevented runners from taking the extra base an above-average 48.2% of the time since 2010.

The Cons

  • Choo is a pure platoon bat. Against left-handers he hit just .199/.318/.286 (78 wRC+) this year and .239/.329/.318 (86 wRC+) over the last three years. His strikeout rate (21.9% overall, 24.8% against lefties) is not awful but it is worse than the league average. He wouldn’t bring any significant contact skills to the offense.
  • Despite the stolen base totals, Choo is basically an average baserunner. He’s gone 55-for-74 in steal attempts the last three years, a solid but not stellar 74.3% success rate. He’s also taken the extra base just 40% of the time during these last three years, for all intents and purposes equal to the 41% league average.
  • The various defensive metrics just hammered Choo this year, bad enough that his three-year stats (-8.9 UZR, -4 DRS, -17 TZ, -0.4 FRAA) are all in the red. He generally graded out as average or better in 2010 and 2011 but apparently was just brutal this year.
  • It’s not the ugliest medical history you’ll find, but Choo is no stranger to the DL. He missed about a week with a hamstring issue this year (related to the poor defensive numbers?), about three months with thumb (surgery required) and oblique problems last year, and most of 2007 and 2008 with elbow problems that eventually required Tommy John surgery.
  • This doesn’t really matter to me, but Choo has never played in the postseason. He was also arrested for DUI in May 2011 and admitted to pressing at the plate afterwards in an attempt to redeem himself. The Yankees value makeup, so who knows how they’ll feel about that. Choo did apologize to his teammates one-by-one and face-to-face following the incident, however.

Cashman and Antonetti have gotten together for a handful of trades in recent years, most notably the Kerry Wood and Austin Kearns swaps. The two teams aren’t division rivals or serious head-to-head competitors, so there shouldn’t be anything superficial like that standing in the way of a potential trade. The Indians are reportedly seeking starting pitching this winter and figure to target a young, controllable starter in any deal involving Choo.

The Josh Willingham and Dan Uggla trades give us a decent framework for a deal involving one year of an above-average but not superstar caliber player. Both Willingham (two prospects) and Uggla (Omar Infante and a prospect) required two pieces in return, one of which was an MLB-ready reliever. The real question is which starter do the Indians want? Ivan Nova? David Phelps? Adam Warren or Brett Marshall? All should be available in the right deal, but given the club’s general lack of starting pitching depth at the moment, I’d be loath to give up Nova or Phelps (plus a second prospect) without getting more than Choo in return. Maybe the Tribe could kick in a second player (or prospect) to even things out.

It’s important to consider that the Yankees already have two left-handed hitting outfielders in Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson, so Choo would give them a third. He definitely needs a platoon partner and you can make a strong case that both Granderson and (moreso) Gardner do as well, so offensively the outfield construction would be far from ideal. I’m sure playing in Yankee Stadium would improve Choo’s output and his arm would be a welcome addition to the defense, but he’d be useless against top AL East pitchers like David Price, Jon Lester, Matt Moore, and Wei-Yin Chen. That has to be a consideration. Choo’s a very good outfield trade target, maybe the best among guys who will be realistically available, but he’s not a perfect fit for the Bombers.

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  • Jamey

    Sign Hamilton. Trade Gardner+Warren for Choo. Deal with Ichiro in LF. Pray Austin is ready for 2014.

    • Jobu

      What happened to Granderson?

      • Jamey

        In CF.

        • Steve (different one)

          So where is Choo?

          • Leo

            RF

            • Get Phelps Up

              Then where is Hamilton?

              • gc

                Third base……badoom ching!

                • 0-Fur is Murder

                  Who’s on first, what’s on second, I don’t know is on third…

    • Get Phelps Up

      Why would the Indians want Gardner?

      • Jamey

        To cheaply replace Choo.

        • Get Phelps Up

          They can do better.

          • Ted Nelson

            Highly doubt it… Gardner is an above average player at a premium position. Choo plays one of the least valuable positions.

    • jjyank

      No on Hamilton. I stay far, far away from that ticking time bomb.

      • Jamey

        Bombs are exactly what he’d hit in YS. His swing is perfect as we saw in the HRD. I’d sooner pay him than Cano. At least Hamilton will have a position in three years. And he has further to fall.

        • Get Phelps Up

          I really don’t get this thinking about Hamilton in YS. Texas is also a great hitters park.

        • jjyank

          “At least Hamilton will have a position in three years”

          What? Cano is now positionless by age 32? And Hamilton is a lock to not break down and stay on the field in 3 years, after everything his body has been through? This logic…it pains me.

          • Ted Nelson

            The groupthink that all former addicts will physically break down goes way too far in the other direction. It may increase the risk, but most people on here treat it like a certainty.

            • Preston

              I don’t know enough about what he did and for how long, but any amount of drug use of the more serious variety (heroine, crack, meth) tears your body apart in a very short period of time. This is not group think, it’s just a reality. Maybe Hamilton is such an unbelievable physical specimen that the damage to his bones, joints and ligaments doesn’t matter, but I think his injury history says otherwise.

              • Ted Nelson

                He was also in his early 20s at the time, when the body still has a good ability to regenerate itself going forward.

                You are not in a position to say whether his injury history is caused by his drug use. It’s certainly possible, but it’s also speculation. Correlation is not causation. The injury history is troubling in and of itself, I would agree, but the rate of his decline vs. another guy with a similar injury history isn’t set in stone.

                You also have no idea what other players are doing in their spare time. Performance enhancers may still be very common, as might recreational use of and functional addictions to recreational drugs. Miguel Cabrera’s liver hasn’t failed him yet despite what appears to be very heavy drinking.

        • Andy in Sunny Daytona

          Will opposing teams only have Hamilton’s 73-year old ex-coach pitch against him? If so, then yes, his HRD results are relevant.
          With this line of thinking, we could trade Cano to AZ, because he hits bombs there, but not KC.

        • gc

          Yeah, Hamilton would definitely hit lots of home runs for the Yankees. If and when he’s actually healthy and in the line-up. Pass.

        • 0-Fur is Murder

          Accoriding to your e-mail above Hamilton has no postion right now. You have 4 outfielders for 3 spots…

    • Richard Leo

      Gardner is better than Choo alone

  • Ben

    Add to the cons: A full season of Ken Singleton pronouncing his name “Shin-So Choo”

    • 0-Fur is Murder

      I don’t even want to imagine Ma & Pa Yankee coming up with some stupid thing to scream when he hits a homerun.

      • Jobu

        “Choo Choo, Shin-So steams one over the wall in right!”

        • jjyank

          “Ahhhhh-Choooo! He sneezed it right over the wall! Well I’ll tell ya, Suzun. You can’t predict my allergies.”

          • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

            “He Choo Choo Chooses to hit over the wall!”

            • gc

              …and there’s a picture of a train!

              • 0-Fur is Murder

                Love them all, must trade for Choo so we can make this a reality!!!

  • JobaTheHeat62

    yea all the guys in the mix here are all platoon guys..ibanez,gardner, choo, ichiro..all struggle against lefties..i think choo is the best of the bunch here besides grandy and i would gladly give up Ivan Nova for him.

    • Preston

      Selling low on Nova is a silly idea. I’m a David Phelps fan, but he is probably over-rated right now. Nova is the better option going forward.

  • mt

    Choo is not perfect (especially since he is ueless against lefties) but the more I think about it he may best Yanks can do.

    I think Torii Hunter will go to Texas (Dallas resident and his high school athlete son had isues last year when he had to leave team to be in Texas; not sure if he is a senior or not but at this stage of his career that may be a deciding fator; Texas also really needs to replace Hamilton) or Boston (he and Ortiz roomed together when they were in Minny -saw an article where he called Oritiz like his “brother”; most importantly, given Boston’s wide open budget after dumping Crawford, Gonzaleaz and Beckett contracts I can see Sox easily going 2 years or 2 years with a option for a third year – it would not be a budget busting move for Sox to overextend somewht on Hunter). I think both Texas and Boston will beat us monetarily as Yanks try to get a cheap one or, more likely,two year deal done.

    I would want one year of Choo but not at cost of Nova or Phelps. Mybe other pitchers like Warren plus others.

    • G

      I’ll give them Phelps or Nova if they give us a window to work out an extension with him.

      • Preston

        Do we want to work out an extension? I thought the idea of acquiring him was to keep money off the books in 2014, if we’re going to sign a long term deal, we might as well re-sign Swisher and keep all of our young players.

        • G

          Well we need someone to play the outfield in 2014 don’t we? Even with Choo and Gardner, we’d be banking on Austin or Heathcott being ready.

          Swisher is almost certainly more expensive than Choo. He’s spent more time in the spotlight and had a healthier, more consistent track record. Not to mention he’s a switch hitter whereas Choo is a lefty who struggles against same sides pitchers. We lose a few young players, but we also get ourselves an underrated player (Mike’s low on him, that’s his opinion, a lot of people think he’s a very underrated player) at a lower price than Swisher would cost.

          You give up the players in the trade to save money, not just to get a different player for fun.

          • Preston

            I just don’t see it that way. Scott Boras never under-rates his clients value. I’m sure he’ll have a 50 page write-up with a video and power point presentation showing how historically good Choo is. He’s younger than Swisher his best seasons (2009-10) were better than any of Swisher’s seasons. Yes he had an injury plagued down season in 2011, but he had a bounce back in 2012 although his WAR total doesn’t show it because of his huge negative defensive numbers. There offensive numbers are nearly identical. Boras isn’t going to let his client sign low, he wants him to have another big year and he’ll be asking for Nick Swisher money the following year. I’d rather just pay the Swisher money now, and get the player with fewer red flags and hang onto the young pitchers.

    • Ted Nelson

      I believe his son will be in Indiana next year, not Texas.

      And with Murphy, Martin, Cruz and maybe Hamilton in the OF and Young at DH… Do the Rangers really want Hunter?

  • Chuck

    Ichiro. He was one of the best hitters in the playoffs he took swishers job. Give him one year. And let’s see some players from the minors. I’d like to at least watch someone develop if we’re gonna get beat by Detroit again. None of the guys out there are significant improvements

    • G

      Choo is quite a significant improvement over Ichiro actually. I loved Ichiro’s two stellar months, but he did not do anything to make me think he is suddenly that much better. If he’s willing to be a 4th outfielder and fight for more playing time, I’ll absolutely take him. But as a shoo-in starter, no way.

    • jjyank

      I get the sentiment, but most of the talent in the minors is not major league ready. I’m also really wary of Ichiro turning back into 2011/most of 2012 Ichiro.

      • Preston

        I’m a big Melky Mesa fan, and think he might be able to be a nice RF of 4th OF by mid-season. But he is definitely not the kind of prospect you open up a roster spot for.

        • jjyank

          He’s defintily interesting. But I agree. If there was no clear MLB upgrade, maybe give him a shot. But if there is a better option available (and there is), don’t pass on it for Mesa.

          • Preston

            Well I think he’d be really valuable if we traded for Choo, as a RHB who can play all three defensive spots. He could fill the Andruw Jones spot, except also be a good defender and pinch runner (as long as he remembers to touch the bags).

  • MannyGeee

    I’m sure playing in Yankee Stadium would improve Choo’s output and his arm would be a welcome addition to the defense, but he’d be useless against top AL East pitchers like David Price, Jon Lester, Matt Moore, and Wei-Yin Chen

    whoa… when did that happen?

    • http://www.twitter.com/_swarlesbarkley Drew

      I was literally typing the same thing.

      • Preston

        Well he’s probably the Orioles best pitcher, unless you really buy into Jason Hammel’s turnaround. But I do think it’s a reach to say that he’s an AL East top pitcher.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      It was either going to be him or Ricky Romero in the post, and in good conscience I could not list Romero after the season he just had.

      • MannyGeee

        ha. you coulda just ended at “…and Matt Moore”.

  • LarryM., Fl.

    Choo seemed interesting to me in the past but with the stats given. His value is less that I originally thought. But to have three lefties in the starting OF lineup and no switch hitters to turn around means we need a RH bat to play against lefties for Choo and Granderson or Gardner. It could be nightmare. So I say “no” and look for a RH bat with decent defensive skills.

  • Wayne

    I would give up Ivan Nova Phil Hughes and David phelps for Choo and a decent bullpen arm. Bring up Brett Marshall and Mikey O’brien. Give Petite whatever he wants.

    • 0-Fur is Murder

      You’re trading 3 SP for 1 yr of an OF and giving to rotation spots to unknowns and it’s PETTITTE!!!! Spelling Andy’s name wrong. I think we have a Red Sox fan trolling here!

      • http://www.nesn.com/2011/01/2011-red-sox-will-challenge-1927-yankees-for-title-of-greatest-team-in-major-league-history.html wilk

        yeah petite is the feminine form of the word “small” in french

    • FIPster Doofus

      Your tade proposal sucks.

      • FIPster Doofus

        And so does my spelling.

        *Trade

  • gc

    What was that meme around here a while back in regards to people who post under a male first name only?

    • jjyank

      That more often than not, they’re trolls.

    • first name only male – Retire 21

      I must have missed that meme.

  • nolan

    I would much rather trade for Alex Gordon. It would cost more but Gordon is young and affordable (12:$6M, 13:$9M, 14:$10M, 15:$12.5M, 16:$12.5M) compared to Choo (who we would only get 1 year of). Plus Gordon is not a platoon player.

    Do you think a package of Nova, Hughes, Warren and Betances could get Gordon?

    • jjyank

      I like Gordan, but that package right there will end only with Kansas City laughing and hanging up.

    • http://www.riveraveblues.com Mike Axisa

      That leaves the Yankees with zero pitching depth. Their number three starter behind CC and Phelps would be Brett Marshall.

  • Wayne

    You could also give up Brett Marshall and Mikey O’brien along with David Phelps and young 20 year old Rookie Davis instead of Hughes and Nova in the deal and along with top position prospects mason Williams
    and Gary Sanchez for Justin Upton

    • 0-Fur is Murder

      Who is Rookie Davis? You’re Justin Upton trade makes no sense. Are you trading Marshall, O’Brien, Phelps, Williams & Sanchez for Upton?

  • Kosmo

    Choo, Chris Perez, Cord Phelps and 1 of the 4 SS prospects not named Lindor:
    Dorssys Paulino, Tony Wolters, Ronny Rodriquez or Jorge Martinez for Nova, Warren and Brett Marshall.

    • Kosmo

      of course I´m banking on NY resigning Kuroda and AP.

    • MannyGeee

      I am not sure Nova, Warren & Marshall gets you Choo and Perez…

      And thats alot of pitching to give in one go.

      • Kosmo

        I´m not sure either but trying to propose trades is kinda goofy to begin with. Warren and Marshall profile as backend starters and “personally´´ Nova doesn´t impress me. Perez is a OK closer with a questionable reputation. Choo is a goner after 2013. Phelps has been buried for no apparent reason within the Indian org. Cleveland has excellent depth in the minors at the SS position something NY lacks.

  • Wayne

    You know the more I think about it if a trade is out of the question, Melky Mesa would
    make sense. I forgot about him. Is the scouting report that he is a good contact
    hitter? Might turn out to be a steal for us.

    • Preston

      No, he is the opposite of a “contact” hitter. The scouting report on him is that he has all the tools to be a great player but might strike out too much to ever be a major league player. He struck out nearly 30% of the time at AA in 2011, lowered it to 20% repeating the level in 2012, but then struck out 32% of the time after he was promoted to AAA. He definitely needs to start this season in AAA and work on lowering his K rate. And best case scenario would have him limit his K’s to around 20%, so he’s never going to be a “contact” hitter. I’m a big Mesa fan, but he’s not ready to start the season in the majors.
      http://www.fangraphs.com/stats.....tion=DH/OF

    • bpdelia

      No. in fact the scouting report is he’s strike,out 300 times. Seriously contact problems is THE problem v with mesa

  • cranky

    I like Choo, but I don’t think the Yanks ought to pursue him at this point in time.
    Asdrubal Cabrera, on the other hand, would be a TERRIFIC acquisition and may also be available.
    He’d cost more in terms of players than would Choo–for good reason–but he’d be more likely to provide a boon to the Yanks WS ambitions.
    Good shortstop, good hitter, switch hitter with some power, still young, could play anywhere in the IF until Jeter can’t play SS anymore (which, let’s face it, could be NOW).

    • Get Phelps Up

      Why would the Indians trade him?

      • jjyank

        Because the entire rest of the league is really just our farm system, of course.

        • Preston

          Eh, this isn’t the most off the wall idea, there have been rumblings of a new Indian rebuild. And Cabrera probably would be the most valuable piece to start over around. Although I don’t think we have the elite starting pitching they’d want back, plus where is the all over the infield he’s going to play, Jeter, Cano and Rodriguez aren’t going anywhere except in Eddard’s wet dreams.

          • Kosmo

            Cabrera´s work ethic has been called into question. I could see Cabrera ending up with the D-Backs for none other than Upton.

  • Andrew Brotherton

    I think you could probably get Alex Gordon for something along the lines of Hughes or Nova, Warren or Marshall, Ramon Flores, and Stoneburner

  • http://www.nesn.com/2011/01/2011-red-sox-will-challenge-1927-yankees-for-title-of-greatest-team-in-major-league-history.html wilk

    trade one of our young SPS along with a lower level bat for Choo, then sign scott hairston to platoon with him in the OF.

    Choo hit .327/.403/.523 last year against righties.
    Hairston hit .286/.317/.550 last year against lefties

    these guys could combine to provide fantastic production out in right field, with hairston as a potential backup for gardner and granderson every once in a while against lefties.

    • G

      Exactly my thoughts. One of our 3 top outfield prospects (Mason, Austin, and Heathcott) plus Phelps. It’s tricky picking which one I wouldn’t mind losing, Mason has the highest ceiling but is probably the furthest away, Heathcott is fairly close and has the tools but is injury prone, and Austin has the lowest ceiling (albeit still projects for good production) but is the closest.

      • Ted Nelson

        You’d give a top 50 prospect in baseball for one year of Choo and then throw in an MLB starter with 5 years of control?

        Not so sure that Austin has the lowest ceiling anymore.

        • Preston

          Austin still probably has the lowest ceiling since he can’t play center, but his floor is much higher. And I would much rather trade Heathcott or Williams and hang on to Austin.

          • Ted Nelson

            I agree with the CF part, but I still might put his ceiling just as high as the other two. Especially Mason. While the offensive bar is much higher in RF, I think Austin has a chance (a ceiling) of being a truly elite all-around hitter even by RF standards. One of the best hitters in the league. I’m not saying that’s the most likely outcome, but I think it’s his ceiling. His offensive bar is much lower and he’s got lots of time to develop, but Williams doesn’t have patience, has more pop than power, and doesn’t appear to have the truly incredible contact skills to consistently be at the top of the league in BA to make up for the other areas (like an Ichiro did in his prime). I would say his overall offensive potential is lower than Austin’s, though on a position-adjusted basis it might be the same. I can see arguing that it’s higher. I just think the notion that Austin lacks an elite ceiling is a bit outdated at this point. I think all three can be elite players in a very good or best case scenario, so I don’t really see much value in ranking their ceilings.

            I think Mason might have the highest probability of being a solid-to-good starter of the three. He’s been mostly healthy (which takes Slade out of the probability race, IMO), he’s got the athleticism where he has no excuse to get moved off CF (which dings Austin pretty bigtime), and he’s got a good chance to at least hold his own against MLB Ps in a few years. I just question his ceiling a little. Does he do anything well enough offensively to be elite? Hopefully he keeps developing. There’s plenty of time and room for that.

            His probability is fairly low at this point, but I feel like Slade might have a little more offensive ceiling than Williams. I can certainly see him staying healthy and being a worse offensive player than Williams, I just think that if everything clicks for him as he moves up the ladder he can be a bit better.

  • JaNY

    No way most likly Choo will cost us too much for possible

    platoon player and his defense is just bad.

  • http://rab.com Mike Cutler

    Victor Martinez for Gardner Phelps and Bencentes!

  • tommy cassella

    what happened to hunter, i thought the yanks were going after him.