Two players that are big time free agents to come in during this offseason are Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. Both are very intriguing and an argument can be made for one or the other. Both are over 30, have had major injuries during their careers and have an extensive amount of experience in the leadoff role. In this article, I will not take a side on who is the better option but will just lay out the facts for both through offense, defense, base running, experience, injury history, saber metric stats and let you be the judge.
The easiest way to begin is with the offense. Choo seems to be the player with more versatility from hitting with a .300 average to popping 15+ homers. That being said, only a few years ago Ellsbury had an unbelievable season with Boston hitting 32 homeruns with a .321 average. Ellsbury has slowed down since and, in his past two seasons, has a 162-game average of 11 homeruns while still averaging .289. Choo had, arguably, his best season taking into account being his second full season leading off on a full time basis. He walked at a godly rate and had 57 extra-base hits in 2013 while Ellsbury walked much little less but still had 48 extra-base hits. The Mets as a team struck out a ton, but Choo had managed to strikeout 100 times four of the past five years. Ellsbury, however, has never struck out more than 100 times.
At one point, Ellsbury was about to become the next Ricky Henderson, stealing 120 bases in two years, and he just led the American League with 52 stolen bags. Choo can also be considered somewhat of a base stealer — 20 bags four out of the past five seasons. Choo got caught 11 times this year; Ellsbury got caught 4 times. Both are considered to have well above-average speed and should be a pencil-in for a first to third situation, but clearly Ellsbury uses is speed on the bases more often than Choo.
Watching our main outfield Eric Young, Juan Lagares, and Marlon Byrd throw out a collective 29 runners was flat-out entertaining. The Mets should realize this phenomenon and invest in more outfield defense. By outfield assists, Choo has the obvious advantage with 9 this season and 14 in 2010; Ellsbury only had 3 this year and 4 in both ’08 and 09. Ellsbury has the advantage with range factor and an overall track record of making circus catches. Both players would, in reality, provide great old-school defense in the outfield and use their speed to catch balls in the gap.
Choo hasn’t really played on good teams during his career, has only played on two playoff teams (2007 Indians and 2013 Reds), and he has only played one post-season game. Ellsbury, on the other hand, played on four post-season teams (all with Red Sox) and has played very well in the postseason except for 2008. Ellsbury will most likely play in the upcoming World Series and gain even more meaningful September games and post-season experience.
Ellsbury didn’t really play in 2010, was seriously affected by his injury in 2012 and missed a lot of September this year; he is a huge injury risk. Choo has only really had one major injury and it wasn’t his fault- he got hit directly in the hand. Choo has been as durable as possible while Ellsbury remains a risk.
While some people are strongly for the new Saber Metrics, there are some critically against it. According to WAR by Baseball-reference, Ellsbury won the Red Sox 5.8 games while Choo won the Reds only 4.2 games. According to the defense numbers, Choo actually cost Cincinnati 1.8 games and Ellsbury gave Boston 1.9 games. According to BAbip both players hovered around .340.
Both players in this case would make great defensive and offensive contributions to the Mets 2014 and beyond outfield and probably could shift over to right field with defensive guru Lagares manning center. The hardest part about knowing the Mets are interested is that Sandy Alderson will definitely not get into a bidding war.