Sources close to team officials announced yesterday that the Cubs will look to add a left handed, OBP minded outfielder this offseason. Specifically, the Cubs are reported to be very interested in Shin-Soo-Choo, and have also been linked to Jacoby Ellsbury – largely because Jason McLeod drafted him in Boston 8 years ago. As Boras clients with proven – albeit injury plagued – track records, expect both of these guys to command big time deals. Exactly how we fit into the mix should be entirely dependent on just how big these deals get.
Choo, at 31 years old, will probably be seeking a 5-6 year deal somewhere between $12 and $15 million per year. He’s capping off a season that will see him reach base at a .400+ clip for just the 2nd time in 9 years, while slugging over .450 and scoring 100+ runs. He can play all three outfield positions well, and has clearly demonstrated his ability to play at the top of a playoff contending lineup. His game translates well for the later years in a deal because his game isn’t overly reliant on power and speed. Rather, Choo leverages both an overwhelmingly impressive understanding of the strike zone and tremendous bat control to do his damage, while also creating opportunities to be aggressive in the box as the game dictates. Simply put, I think he fits.
Ellsbury, on the other hand, plays much more naturally than Choo. He relies on instincts and athleticism to make plays and drive the ball. When healthy, he’s clearly one of MLB’s most dynamic players and is certainly an outstanding asset to any team’s lineup. The only problem is that at 30 years old, the “when healthy” element starts to become a major question mark. Couple that with that fact that Boras will want at least $18m/year for a minimum of 6 years, and you’re looking at more-likely-than-not disaster. He’s the type of player that when things start to go south, they do so very very quickly. While I’m convinced Theo wasn’t entirely behind the Carl Crawford move, I’m hoping he learned enough to not even let the idea of Ellsbury in a Cubs uniform get off the ground.
So what’s the move? I’d target Choo at an above market price but shorter term contract. Think $16m with both heavy individual and team-based incentives (win total, division standings, etc.) over 4 years. Start him in CF in 2014, then move him to right or left when Almora is ready.
Whether or not we sign this guy obviously remains to be seen, but that’s not the point. The point is, this is the first time we’ve heard Theo and crew linked to a legitimate position player free agent since taking over. If anything it says more about the confidence level of those charged with this turn around than it does about anything else.
PS – Everyone has been saying 2015 and I’m absolutely sick of it. The Rays went 66-96 the year before they called up their talent and made it to the WS. The Tigers were 71-91 before they added the final pieces to the puzzle to make it to the WS in 06. I know the process doesn’t happen overnight, but it can certainly go down a lot sooner than you think. So to all the 2015 people, calm the fuck down and see what happens.