Is It Time to Sell High on Shin-Soo Choo?

I hate commenting on baseless rumors and inane message board posts. People get all worked up about it when there’s never any truth behind the rumors or ideas. It’s usually best to ignore them.

However on an Indians message board that I used to frequent, I saw an interesting trade idea that made me pause. It seems like a trade both sides would agree is fair. But that doesn’t necessarily mean both sides would agree to the deal.

Indians recieve: Phil Hughes, Jesus Montero
Yankees receive: Shin-Soo Choo

Don’t throw your laptop across the room yet, Tribe fans. Yes, this would be a bitter pill to swallow after the brutal season we just endured. But it may be for the best interests of the franchise. Before I go into what the Indians would receive, let’s look at what the Indians would lose. Choo was easily the Indians best offensive player last year. A .401 OBP (.885 OPS) is hard to replace. He plays good defense, and should have been an all-star.

But here’s where baseball’s ugly economics rears its evil head. Choo is eligible for arbitration this year. The Indians hate arbitration, and haven’t gone to it since time began. They want to lock up Choo through his arbitration years (and preferably a year of his free agency) at a fixed rate. But Choo has Scott Boras as his agent. Boras is known for being a hard negotiator and getting top dollar for his clients. It’s going to be an uphill battle to get Choo to sign this contract.

Another question to ask is exactly how much better (if at all) Choo is going to get. His final numbers this year are remarkably similar to last years, although Choo had a better year this year and missed about a month to a wrist injury. But is he going to get better? Do the Indians want to be stuck holding the bag again, like with Hafner and Sizemore? Should they just sell high?

And here’s where we get in to what the Indians are getting, because they are selling pretty high. Hughes was a top prospect who finally seemed to get it this year. His numbers this year were decent (ignore that gaudy win total, he played on the Yankees): 4.19 ERA 1.25 WHIP a .244 BAA in 176.1 IP. He has a penchant for the longball (25 HRs allowed) and he got rocked in the postseason, but he’s only 24 and (stop me if you’ve heard this before) is considered a potential front of the rotation starter.

Montero is considered by many to be the Yankees’ best hitting prospect. He plays catcher but there are questions about whether his body can handle catching at the major league level. This isn’t really a problem for the Indians as they already have a really good young catcher in Carlos Santana. Montero’s numbers in the minors last year were impressive: in 504 ABs in his first season at Triple-A, he hit 21 HR with a .353 OBP (.870 OPS). He’s a right handed hitter, which there is a dearth of in the high levels of the Indians’ minor league system. This is the guy the Yankees wouldn’t trade to land Cliff Lee. Lee was a free agent at the end of the year. Choo is under the Indians (or the Yankees) control until 2013.

But this is not an instant “slam dunk” of a trade. This is high risk/high reward type stuff. You’re betting on a lot of things, namely that Choo regresses or stabilizes (and you assume he wasn’t staying in Cleveland anyways),  Hugues continues to develop like a frontline starter, and Montero can hit in the big leagues.

Yeah, it would leave a giant hole in RF. Yes, it would alienate fans. But if winning will bring back fans (as many of these “fans” claim), then this might be a way to upgrade the club. And given the uncertainty surrounding Choo’s contract situation, the time might be neigh for the Indians to sell high on Choo.

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Tags: Carlos Santana Cliff Lee Grady Sizemore Jesus Montero Phil Hughes Shin Soo Choo Travis Hafner

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  • Go back to Fantasy Baseball

    The Indians have plenty of pitching coming up the pipeline. Your trade completely decimates the outfield.

    We have Grady and Choo for the next two to three years, lets ride them and see where we go. Plus, when you trade players like Choo to the Yankees, you just make them a better club, and that much more difficult to beat in the playoffs in the very near future should your trade produce a plus effect like you think it might.

    If the Indians build a core of three .400 OBP guys next year, or lets say 4 guys who can go .370 or higher, then they will be in line to win an extra 10-20 games just from that alone.

    Rather than reduce our chances, lets see if Choo, Santana and Grady give us three guys who will OBP at least a .375 level. Brantley’s second half produced around a .335 OBP, which is a very encouraging sign. If Brantley can build on that and get to .350 OBP or slightly higher, we will have a four guys who can get on base enough to generate threats practically every time they come up, and all four have decent to excellent speed as well.

    This then could help LaPorta in his second season with the club, don’t count LaPorta out, Konkerko was awful his first full season in the league. And waiting in the wings is Travis Hafner, who even in part time duty put up a terrific OBP.

    I believe making a play off run next season will hinge on the production we get from second base and third base. And we have four LEGITIMATE prospects in the minors that can play either second or third.

    Standing pat is not as bad as some think. The key next year is how long do they go with a Donald at second and a Nix at third if they aren’t producing at least a .335 to .340 OBP.

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  • Chris

    I’m going the opposite way. There is no way we would turn this deal down if it were offered, and likewise, very unlikely the Yankees offer it. You say they wouldn’t part with Montero for Cliff Lee? Well, as much as we like Choo, he’s not as valuable as Lee, AND you want the Yankees to throw in Hughes. Never in a million years will it happen. What’s in it for the Yankees? First, they will have to lose out on Crawford this off-season. OR, will be able to sign Lee. If they sign Lee, then I guess they’d be looking to dump a pitcher and upgrade their OF, but I have to think that there will be cheaper opportunities for them.

  • Ed Carroll

    Ughhhhh I hate hate HATE posting stuff like this because as I said, it just gets people worked up. However it’s been a slow news week and at least it’s gotten people thinking about the Indians again.

    @Go back to fantasy baseball: Thanks for the comment. You say the key is how long the team goes with Donald and Nix if they aren’t producing. I’m of the camp that Donald and Nix are strictly utility players that are starting out of necessity. Yes, the Indians have a couple legitimate second base prospects (Kipnis, Phelps) with Kipnis having the higher ceiling but hasn’t played at Triple-A yet. As for third base, even if Chisenhall were ready (he’s not), the team wouldn’t call him up till after May in order to control his service time. I think if the Yankees were to offer this the Indians would have to seriously consider it.

    @Chris Thanks for the comment. Don’t underestimate the value of Choo being under team control through 2013, unlike Lee who you’d only have till the end of the year, and then would have to spend an exorbitant amount of money to re-sign him. OR you could trade Montero and Hughes and land your right fielder for at least the next three years. Like I said, it’s high-risk/high reward.