LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Shin-Soo Choo is, by acclamation, a very good player with a lot to offer a major league team. But the speculative frenzy surrounding him at the winter meetings has more to do with falling dominoes than his stellar on-base percentage.
Now that free agents Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran, Curtis Granderson and Mike Napoli are off the board, the focus naturally turns to Choo, a hit-by-pitch and OBP machine who has a special niche as a true leadoff hitter. He's sure to be a prime topic of conversation when agent Scott Boras emerges from his suite and gives his annual State of the Boras Corporation Clientele update in Orlando in the next day or two.
A year ago at this time, most executives envisioned Choo as a nice five-year, $80 million player. He has yet to make an All-Star team or finish higher than 12th in MVP balloting, and he's a career .243 hitter with a .680 OPS against left-handed pitching. But the gusher of TV money and the baseball-wide run on hitters has accelerated the pursuit of Choo and sent the estimates of what it will take to sign him into orbit.
Entering the offseason, Boras was looking for a deal with a total payout exceeding Jayson Werth's seven-year, $126 million agreement with the Washington Nationals in 2010. After landing Ellsbury with the Yankees for $153 million, Boras is seeking another huge payday for Choo.
What will the team that ultimately signs Choo be getting?
"For the next two or three years, he's probably going to be an elite on-base guy," said an American League executive. "He's a plus makeup guy. He'll give you some power and probably play average defense on the corners. He's a very good hitter, but he's 31 next year. If you sign him to a seven-year deal, you know you'll be looking at a significantly declining skill set over the last 3-4 years of the deal."
Where could Choo ultimately land? Keeping in mind that the landscape can change at a moment's notice, here's a list of teams that have voids in the outfield or have been linked to Choo in media reports:
The Rangers have engaged in some dialogue with Boras about Choo, but he's too pricey for their tastes at the moment. Barring a change, Texas could simply opt to bring back Nelson Cruz on a shorter-term deal. If Cruz returns and joins Alex Rios, Leonys Martin and the newly-acquired Michael Choice in the outfield mix, it's tough to see where Choo would fit in Arlington.
They're in desperate need of an outfield bat. But after spending $240 million on Cano, how high are they willing to go on Choo? The Mariners and Red Sox are among the teams that have been mentioned as potential landing spots for Matt Kemp if the Dodgers move him in a trade. So that's another possibility.
If Boras does take Choo to Seattle, the Mariners might want to consider a dual news conference involving both Cano and Choo. How much fun would it be to see Boras and Jay Z on the same podium?