In his annual predictions for MLB Trade Rumors, Tim Dierkes predicted that Shin-Soo Choo would sign with the Detroit Tigers.
He suggested that the well-documented relationship between Choo's agent, Scott Boras, and Tigers owner Mike Ilitch could culminate in a long-term deal. Boras appealed to Ilitch's spend-whatever-it-takes-to-win mindset two winters ago when Prince Fielder became a free agent. The slugger ultimately signed with Detroit for $214 million.
Although Choo would fit perfectly atop the team's lineup, the contract numbers don't mesh quite as well. Another Boras client, right-hander Max Scherzer, is set to reach free agency following the 2014 season. Locking up both doesn't seem doable considering Detroit's other hefty contracts. In all likelihood, the Tigers will prioritize the slightly younger, Cy Young Award-caliber pitcher ahead of the elite batter.
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports was the first to identify the Houston Astros as a legitimate player in the Choo sweepstakes. Their progressive front office values on-base percentage more than most others do, so the disciplined outfielder—who perennially ranks among the league leaders in that department—appears to be a great fit. Moreover, the Astros have ample funds to participate in free-agent bidding coming off a season in which they barely spent anything on payroll.
With that said, there's virtually zero chance of Houston contending during the next few seasons. Unless Choo is adamant about being the face of a franchise (he's never said anything publicly to suggest that), it's doubtful that he would agree to spent the rest of this decade with the Astros.
The New York Yankees have the motivation to spend exorbitantly after failing to qualify for the postseason, but Andrew Marchand notes that Choo doesn't satisfy their biggest needs. The Bronx Bombers lack power (ironically), and the 31-year-old has never accounted for more than 22 home runs in a season. Perhaps dramatic platoon splits give the Yankees pause; Choo didn't go deep once in 221 plate appearances against left-handed pitching last summer (.612 OPS).
It's been easy to forget that the New York Mets also reside in Major League Baseball's largest media market. Since signing Jason Bay for $66 million in January 2010, they have not pursued potential stars in free agency. That could change this winter, as Bay, Johan Santana and Frank Francisco come off the books.
The Mets undoubtedly covet Choo for his spectacular on-base skills, as the club aims to improve after finishing 12th in National League OBP last year. Meanwhile, the presence of defensive whiz Juan Lagares would allow Choo to settle in at his natural position in right field. The New York metropolitan area could provide comfort away from the ballpark, as Tyler Kepner of The New York Times notes that it boasts the second-largest Korean population of any U.S. city.
Guaranteed money figures to be the biggest factor in this decision. The Mets could fulfill Boras' dreams of a $100 million-plus commitment while offering Choo a great chance of championship contention within the next few years.
Most Likely Destination: New York Mets