There is some lineup-changing talent available this off-season in right field. But it’s not where the Rangers will be looking as they try to make improvements in 2016. Mainly because Shin-Soo Choo mans right field. His contract is like two cement shoes, which he played like he was wearing for much of the first two years of that contract.
Choo was signed to a seven-year, $130 million deal in the 2013 off-season. Five years, and most of the money, remain. Choo made $14 million in 2014 and 2015, but is due $20 million in ’16, ’17 and ’18. And then $21 million in ’19 and ’20.
He will be 39 in the last year of the deal. Choo’s is one of ten worst contracts in baseball according to ESPN. Two others in the top ten belong to Rangers as well: Fielder’s and Andrus’s.
Unless the Rangers eat some salary, Choo will be a Rangers for quite some time. (And if they eat salary, it should be shortstop salary they feast on.) Choo had a bad 2014, and was on his way to an even more miserable 2015 when his wife reminded him how to hit again, and his second half was amazing. She was not interviewed for the hitting coach job.
If the Rangers were to look to beef up right field in the free agent market, here is who they have to choose from, with their ages in parenthesis:
Nori Aoki (34)
Marlon Byrd (38)
Alejandro De Aza (32)
David DeJesus (36)
Chris Denorfia (35)
Jason Heyward (26)
Matt Joyce (31)
Justin Maxwell (32)
David Murphy (34)
Gerardo Parra (29)
Ryan Raburn (35)
Colby Rasmus (29)
Alex Rios (35)
Grady Sizemore (33)
Will Venable (33)
Shane Victorino (35)
Chris Young (32)
Delmon Young (30)
Jason Heyward is the cream of the crop here, but I don’t know why. He is one of the best defense right fielders in baseball, but a very uninspiring hitter. He is seeking $20 million a year. He will get it, because of the Idiot Owner Theory. But he’s not worth that kind of money. Nobody else on this list is worth the investment. And certainly, nobody is better than Choo. Or at least the good Choo.
While Choo stunk it up the first half of 2015, in the second half he was the second-best hitter in the American League, batting .344 with a remarkable on-base percentage of .455. In the first half he hit an embarrassing .221 with a barely perceptible OBP of .305.
Once Choo figured it out at the plate, he seemed to get the confidence to play right field better too. In the first half, right field mostly played him. There was one game when he let a sharp ground ball that Odor almost fielded at second roll all the way past him as he watched it go to the wall.
Choo has been a Ranger for two seasons, and was a disaster for one and a half of those.But his turnaround was remarkable. He put up numbers the Rangers expected he would when invested all that money in him.
So far, he has yet to put together full season with Texas. But he will be a Rangers in 2016, barring some totally unforeseeable salary dump. But when Choo is going good, he is really good. And when he is going good, he hits for power, gets on base, has some speed—he is an offensive force.
Now it’s just a matter of him doing it over the course of a full season. Then the four seasons after that.