Originally written on Waiting For Next Year  |  Last updated 8/29/12

Last night while trying to avoid the actual topic of the Indians losing to the A’s1 I decided it would be interesting to start discussing what kind of price Shin-Soo Choo could demand on the open market. We all like Choo (I think.) He is a player who should be part of any team’s solution as opposed to an issue. Still, he’s not to the level of a big-time premier free agent.

Choo batted 300 for three straight years with the Indians before faltering in 2011. 2012 has been something of a return to form for Choo as he’s batting 278 in a bad lineup on what has been a pretty bad team. He also turned 30 in July, so you have to assume his next contract could very well be his last, which brings us to point number one. How long a deal is Shin-Soo Choo likely to get? In my pragmatic mind, it seems to make sense for Choo to get a four-year deal with an option year of some kind, whether it be a player, team or mutual option. Jon seems to think with baseball being the way it is and Scott Boras being who he is, that Choo could be looking at a six year deal.

Ugh. Six years is a long time. Still, what kind of money are we talking about here? In my mind Shin-Soo Choo is a very good free agent, but certainly not a premier guy that would start a Prince Fielder bidding war. If I was putting a sincere value of what I think a guy like Choo should make on an annual basis I would put him in the $10-12 million annual range. Back to Jon, he suggested a scenario of six years and $13 million per year, similar to what Indians fans have recently endured with Travis Hafner.

Back in December of 2010, Jon wrote at length about Jayson Werth’s 7-year $126 million deal with the Washington Nationals and suggested that it was a precursor to Shin-Soo Choo’s contract negotiations. You’ll recall that deal runs past Werth’s 38th birthday paying him somewhere in the ballpark of $20 million. Ugh x 2.

More from Jon…

Well, believe it or not, Jayson Werth is about as good a comp for Shin-Soo Choo as exists.  Earlier this year I dug up a bunch of comparable players who were approaching arbitration, but none was quite as good a fit as Jayson Werth.  Both are corner outfielders with plus defensive skills.  Both are late-bloomers.  Both are good baserunners.  Both have quietly put together some very good, borderline great offensive seasons.  Both are represented by Scott Boras.

My premise originally was that Choo was about a $10 million per year player and that the Indians would be well-advised to pony up $10 million per year for Choo. That wasn’t to say that the Indians would do that, just that solid baseball players cost that much. I hadn’t figured on locking a guy up for six years and a minimum of $13 million per year.

So we’ll see if the market that produced Jayson Werth’s deal is still there when Choo goes hunting. It seems to me that it shouldn’t be, but nothing in baseball would shock me. When the league signs a deal that could pay each team $21+ million per year in national TV revenue, you just don’t know what the market will do.

That brings me to one final thought. Why wouldn’t the Indians take a gamble on Choo? Assuming he doesn’t end up an injured mess, the Indians should be able to trade him at some point if he turns out to be a guy they can’t use or can’t afford. We are talking about a league that saw Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett and Carl Crawford get unloaded with some of the richest contracts in league history after the trade deadline. And Choo shouldn’t be as expensive as any of those three players.

More than likely, all this talk is for nothing though. I would bet Jon Heyman is right and the Indians will move Choo this winter.

(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

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  1. By the way, why is it acceptable to have an apostrophe in their name? It is a little complex, but it is supposedly right.
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