The headline seems like a rather obvious statement, but this Jon Heyman piece on CBS Sports seems to confirm what we all knew: the Indians are going to listen for offers on outfielder Shin-Soo Choo this offseason, and with his unwillingness to negotiate a contract extension, it seems likely that he's going to get moved.
The 30-year old Choo isn't a superstar, but he's a very good option for at team looking for an outfielder. After combining for 11.0 fWAR and back to back 20/20 seasons over 2009 and 2010, Choo dipped to 1.4 fWAR in 2011, homering just eight times and stealing only 12 bases while playing in only 85 games. This year, Choo appears to be back to his old self, with a .838 OPS (though that is 50 points lower than his 2009 and 2010 marks, 15 homers, and 15 stolen bases.
Choo is making $4.9 million this year, and 2013 will be his final arbitration season, with a raise likely pushing his salary north of $6 million. That's a pretty good deal for a player of Choo's caliber, especially when you consider that the Rockies are paying Michael Cuddyer $10.5 million for the next two seasons, when he'll be 34 and 35, and paid him the same amount this season at age 33 for an .806 OPS with half of his games in Coors Field.
The market for Choo will be an interesting one. The Pirates, Dodgers, and Rangers had discussions for Choo at midseason, but the Pirates are all set for the long-term after acquiring Travis Snider, and the Dodgers will probably make a push to re-sign Shane Victorino, who they acquired at the trade deadline. As for the Rangers, they are a very interesting option, especially with Josh Hamilton hitting the free agent market this winter. Texas definitely has viable prospects it could deal to Cleveland, but there might not be a place for him in Arlington, wiht Nelson Cruz and David Murphy entrenched in corner outfield spots, and neither of those two or Choo having significant center field experience. Leonys Martin could end up being a better, cheaper, and younger option in center than Choo assuming Hamilton leaves town.
Indians GM Chris Antonetti has a coveted trade chip in Choo, and looking at the pool of available free agents this offseason, he'll likely get a buyer. The best corner outfielders on the market are Melky Cabrera (stained by his testosterone suspension), Delmon Young (who has never lived up to expectations and has had off the field issues), Torii Hunter (a 37 year-old whose best days are behind him), and Ichiro Suzuki (who will be 39 after the season). Dealing prospects for a year of Choo and then working out a three or four year extension modeled around the Cuddyer or Josh Willingham extensions is a much more desirable scenario than paying the same money to any of the best free agent options, all of whom have some sort of red flag about them.
Thankfully for the Indians, Mark Shapiro is now the club president and not the GM. It was under Shapiro's watch that the Tribe dealt CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, and Victor Martinez and essentially got two non-injured regulars for the trio: Justin Masterson and Michael Brantley. But then again, Antonetti is the one who made the diastrous Ubaldo Jimenez deal last summer, so you can't completely absolve him from making mistakes. If Antonetti plays his cards right, he could get a pretty decent return for Choo from a team. I just hope he doesn't hang on to his star right fielder in the hopes of a 2013 playoff run.
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