The Mets need to sign Shin-Soo Choo

This off-season is without question an incredibly important one for the Mets. It’s essentially the turning point for this franchise during the Alderson era, whether or not the team officially recognizes it as such. Large, crippling contracts are coming off of the books and the farm is in the process of churning out high-ceiling pitching talent the likes of which most Mets fans have never experienced. It’s no secret that the team needs to upgrade at several positions if it wants to take that next step, though. The outfield in particular is a major area in need of improvement.

Rookie Juan Lagares’ outstanding defensive performance in center field in 2013 appears to have given the Mets a clearer understanding of where to upgrade. Specifically, the value Lagares provides the Mets up the middle defensively will allow them to focus on upgrading the offense in the corners. It’s become quite clear that the Mets will have make a significant trade to upgrade one of those spots, but it’s very unlikely that they will go that route to improve both positions. The team will have to go the free agent (FA) route to plug one of those holes.

So who should the Mets target on the market? There’s been plenty of discussion on this topic, and the consensus is generally that the Mets need to invest in an upper echelon outfielder like Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury. The problem lies in the cost of those players. Choo will most likely cost less in terms of years and money than Ellsbury, but both will be quite expensive. Are those two players really the cream of the crop in the outfield FA market, or just the biggest names? The table below lists the top ten FA outfielders (as listed by MLBTradeRumors) in terms of fWAR and covers the 2009 to 2013 seasons.

Top 10 FA OF – Total WAR 09-13
Name WAR
Ben Zobrist 29.7
Shin-Soo Choo 19.7
Jacoby Ellsbury 18.3
Curtis Granderson 16.4
Carlos Beltran 13.3
Andres Torres 12.8
Nelson Cruz 11.8
Chris Young 11.8
David DeJesus 11.2
Marlon Byrd 10.1

There are three things to note about the table above. The first is that the top of that list is really not shocking at all. The second is that Ben Zobrist just continues to show what a bargain he’s been for the Rays over the last five years. Finally, the second half of that list is quite uninspiring. The fact that Andres Torres is sixth on that list speaks volumes to the lack of quality outfield FAs available this off-season.

Should we be looking at only fWAR when considering outfield options, though? The Mets need outfielders who can produce offensively and don’t derive the bulk of their value from their defense. An easy way to measure this is to use one of FanGraph’s newest statistics called “Offense.” Simply stated, the Offense statistic identifies the best offensive players in the game using their batting and base-running performances. Since Offense, like fWAR, is a counting statistic, we can similarly identify the top offensive performers from the same set of FAs over the same time period.

Top 10 FA OF – Total Off 09-13
Name Offense
Shin-Soo Choo 136.7
Ben Zobrist 117.5
Carlos Beltran 95.1
Curtis Granderson 66.5
Jacoby Ellsbury 63.6
Nelson Cruz 53.9
Michael Morse 25.5
Raul Ibanez 24
Jason Bay 20.5
Andres Torres 19.9

The top of the list remains largely the same while the bottom of the list ends up being quite sobering. That fact that Torres and Jason Bay made this top ten offensive performances list over the last five years goes a long way in showing the lack of quality in this FA class of outfielders.

We can refine our analysis of these players a bit more by examining their consistency over the same time period. Basically we’re looking to understand the highs and lows of this list of FAs to understand if their production was weighed down or lifted by outlier performances. That being said, the following graph illustrates the Offense for each of the ten players listed above from 2009 to 2013.


Although the graph above is a bit busy, it’s clear that there are groups of players that have performed fairly consistently and others that have been buoyed or crippled by outlier performances. For example, Curtis Granderson’s amazing 2011 really stands out when considering the years surrounding it. Again, keep in mind that Offense is a counting statistic so it is affected by players missing time due to injury. One need only reference Carlos Beltran’s 2010 and Choo’s 2011 to confirm that.

This information is important when considering that the Mets (as well as most other teams) will be looking to capitalize on the “mid-tier” FA model of the Red Sox last year. Beltran and Zobrist seem like sure bets to give you great value for the money they’ll likely make and would seem to fall into the “mid-tier” category. However, the Rays have already picked up Zobrist’s option for 2014 and Beltran will be another year older. After those two, Ellsbury, and Choo, the options are much less palatable.

Ellsbury obviously has the potential to perform incredibly well on the offensive side, but he’ll be exceptionally expensive and does come with some health concerns. In the end, it really seems like the Mets should make signing Choo a priority. He’ll certainly require a large investment to lock up, but should be cheaper than Ellsbury and has been more consistent both in performance and his ability to stay healthy.

If the Mets truly intend on competing in 2014, they need to upgrade both corner outfield spots. They won’t do that by only trading or only signing FAs, they’ll need to do both. Signing Choo should be the FA signing they make, with Alderson getting creative to upgrade left field via trade.

13 comments for “The Mets need to sign Shin-Soo Choo

  1. Metsense
    November 3, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    The Mets NEED to improve. They don’t NEED to sign any one paticular player. At some point, (another discussion) Choo may become too expensive or lengthy.
    The Mets have S30.5M to spend. Granderson $15 + Peralta $10 + Byrd $8 – Davis $3.5M (in a trade for prospect) = 28.5M
    The team would improve at three positions, keep Murphy and Gee, resign Hawkins at $2M and be better than the 2013 version that played 7 games above .500 between June 22 and August 27th without Harvey, Wright and Parnell during August..
    My point is that there are a few ways to achieve success and there is no NEED for any one particular player.
    Using Davis was an example was not the intent to open discussion on Davis. Trading Duda 1.8M non tendering Atchison 1.3M and Quintinilla .9M gets a similar result.

    • Robby
      November 3, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Makes a ton of sense to me. Major leaguers are much needed on this team. Tired of hopefuls or never will bes.

    • November 3, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      The Mets NEED to improve. You do that by acquiring the best players available that make sense. Choo makes tremendous sense. Granderson is fools gold who’s benefited greatly from playing in Yankee stadium. In your scenario you are also banking on Byrd coming anywhere close to what he was this year and that the good version of Peralta’s offense shows up in 2014.

      There are indeed a few ways to achieve success, but banking on more lottery tickets is not one of them. Obviously you don’t get ridiculous with what you offer Choo, but you can’t avoid making commitments forever.

      • Metsense
        November 3, 2013 at 9:33 pm

        Actually I don’t expect Granderson to have Yankee stadium power, just around 20-25 dingers, and Byrd more like his career OPS numbers with 15-20 dingers and Peralta just around his career OPS with 10 dingers. Upgrading LF, RF and SS without trading Murphy or Gee solidifies the team. Signing Choo does the same. For that matter so does signing Cano or Ellsbury.
        BTW Rob, enjoyed the article, I’m also not in disagreement with your summary. I just think there is ALSO other ways to improve. I do disagre with you that these three players are ” lottery picks” .

        • November 4, 2013 at 6:21 am

          Honestly, “lottery ticket” was probably the wrong term to use here, Metsense. “Gamble” is more appropriate, but really any free agent signing is a gamble. Especially when you get to the level of contract that Choo and Ellsbury are said to be seeking.

          In the end you are absolutely correct. There are certainly several ways in which Alderson could improve this team, many of which no one outside he and his front office are probably even talking about. If one of those scenarios includes landing a big time bat and avoids having to give out a ridiculous contract then I’m sure every one of us would be on board.

  2. Name
    November 3, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    Not saying this exercise is entirely useless, but I do not believe this is the best way to approach Free Agency and I believe analyses like this have probably led to the giving out of massive, overpaid contracts. The problem is that looking at the past, especially as far as 5 years back, is not that indicative to what will happen in the future. To put that into perspective, 5 years ago Harvey just started his freshman year in college.

    Pay for what will happen, not for what has happened.

    • November 4, 2013 at 6:29 am

      You’re right, Name. But really, when you get down to it, aren’t all FA contracts essentially paying for past performance? At least for the big time FAs. Shoot, the White Sox just handed out a massive contract for a past performance that wasn’t even in the MLB.

      What the look back does is give us an idea about consistency. Choo has consistently performed at a high level for an extended period of time. I’m not saying the Mets should massively overpay. In fact, I honestly have hope that Choo’s price will come down. Then again, all it takes is one GM to bite.

      The last thing I want is for this team to be bogged down with yet another albatross of a contract. However, at some point the Mets are going to need to dip their foot in the deep end of the pool again. Choo addresses several problems for the team, but only at a “reasonable” price. Of course, “reasonable” is the operative word here.

      • Name
        November 4, 2013 at 5:42 pm

        You’re right that the current FA system for big time free agent’s are structured to pay for the past performance rather than what they will realistically produce in the future. And it would be perfectly fine for Sandy to just follow the status quo and continue to operate like every other GM has and will for the foreseeable future.
        I guess i’m hoping that Alderson bucks that trend and doesn’t pay someone who is about to be in his 30s like they are still in their prime 20s.

        Speaking of Choo specifically, i would advocate signing him and even at an overpay. I think his signing would be more than just the stats he puts up, as Met fans really need a big boost in morale right now.

  3. November 4, 2013 at 2:33 am

    SA is not only concerned about 2014 but has to consider down the road as well even if he’s not here. Signing Choo answers both questions and gives the team a legitimate lead off hitter and a quality right fielder for the next 4-5 years. Trade for a left fielder and Lagares can play center and bat in the bottom half of the line up.

  4. Scott Ferguson
    November 4, 2013 at 4:25 am

    I wouldn’t touch Granderson, unless he freefalls and the Mets can sign him for a year only, which won’t happen.
    I like Choo and would sign him.
    I have a strong belief they’re not bringing in two full time OFs and instead will bring in one and a platoon player on the cheap.

  5. November 4, 2013 at 7:46 am

    I’d love to see the Mets sign Choo and Drew. This is my second favorite time of the baseball year…. It’s almost like opening day when anything is possible. I just hope the Mets powers that be are willing to spend this fall and winter. As for Granderson he’s suppose to be a great club house presence but to me he’s a fall back option if the Mets can’t get Shoo or Elisbury.

  6. November 4, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Regardless of who the Mets get, they can’t wait for the market to come to them, as SA seems to like to do, otherwise they will be SOL and none of these players will be available.

  7. Roland Davis
    November 4, 2013 at 9:08 pm

    Word is that the Reds will re-sign Choo. Their hope that speedster Billy Hamilton would be ready to assume Choo’s spot in CF is not looking likely.

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