Next stop for Choo Choo Train? Maybe New York
Published : Sep 11, 2013 - 17:58
Updated : Sep 11, 2013 - 17:58
(AP-Yonhap News)

As the end of Major League Baseball’s 2013 season draws near, speculations are flying over where Cincinnati Reds’ Choo Shin-soo may end up. The top pursuer seems to be the Mets, according to Andy Martino of the New York Daily News.

Martino, citing a Mets official who had been informed of the team’s general manager Sandy Alderson’s plans, reported Tuesday that the Mets were interested in the 31-year-old outfielder.

Ever since the dawn of this season, New York has been mentioned as the potential new team for the South Korean who has been having a career-high season.

“A second Mets source said that the team liked Choo -- this is no state secret,” Martino wrote.

Choo is currently second in the National League in on-base percentage (.425), second in runs (97) and second in walks (97). He has also belted 20 home runs and is three steals away from achieving his third 20-20 (20 home runs and 20 stolen bases) season.

Martino indicated that the Mets will not go out of their way to acquire Choo though, saying the team will not be “engaging in a crazy bidding war for the 31-year-old Scott Boras client.” His report suggests the Mets are careful not to burden their payroll by overpaying, as Choo’s agent Boras is notorious in the baseball circles for squeezing every last dime from potential suitors.

A number of Boras’ clients, including Adrian Beltre and Kevin Millwood, are known to have performed well below expectations after signing multi-million-dollar contracts with the help of Boras. The Texas Rangers’ signing of South Korean pitcher Park Chan-ho, also masterminded by Boras, was selected as one of worst contracts in MLB history by Bleacher Report.

Boras’ infamy notwithstanding, Choo is still a great catch for his potential employers.

He has been one of the most productive lead-off hitters since 2009, his second season as a full-time big leaguer. He is known for combining speed and strength, consistently marking high numbers in several categories including hits and stolen bases.

At least one other club besides the Mets -- the Chicago Cubs -- are on the short list of teams interested in Choo.

Ironically, the left-handed hitter’s biggest weakness is subpar performance against left-handed pitchers this year. He been hitting a meager .209 against lefties, considerably lower than his .291 overall batting average.

Choo’s defense is also less than satisfactory. His ultimate zone rating -- a sabermetric statistic widely used to assess a player‘s fielding ability -- is one of the worst among center fielders at -15.6.

Despite his flaws, there is little doubt that Choo will get a multi-year contract substantially larger than his current $7.37 million salary after his breakout season. Jason Martinez of Bleacher Report wrote that for the Cubs, signing Choo to a four-year deal worth somewhere between $56 million and $64 million “would make a whole lot of sense.”

By Yoon Min-sik