We knew since the beginning of the offseason that the Yankees were in on Shin-Soo Choo. Yesterday, we learned that the team actually made a very big offer of 7 years $140 million before moving on to Carlos Beltran. Many fans, including myself, found it surprising that Choo and his agent Scott Boras turned down such a big offer. Apparently, Choo is holding out for just a little more; he wants Jacoby Ellsbury money, 7 years $153 guaranteed with an 8th year option.
Perhaps Choo will get what he wants, but we’ve seen some Scott Boras blunders over the last couple of years. Ever since the new CBA came about, Boras has shown a tendency to wait out the market for a desperate team. It certainly helped Prince Fielder get a mammoth contract from the Tigers, but it led to huge life altering short-term contracts for Edwin Jackson, Ryan Madson, and Carlos Pena. All three of these players settled for 1 year deals. The idea was to rebuild their free agent value in 2012 and then move on to the next free agent market while looking for a longer deal. But Pena and Jackson had poor seasons, and Madson was injured before the season even began. Jackson was the only one of these players to recover any sort of value, and he left Boras just months into the 2012 season.
Choo is a much bigger name, and I don’t see him settling for a 1 year deal anytime soon, but despite his name, Boras is not as infallible as his reputation holds. Passing on the 7 year $140 million deal could end up a huge mistake. It’s barely the end of December, but Choo’s market looks to be drying up. The Mariners are supposedly out of money, the Diamondbacks already got their corner outfielder in Mark Trumbo, and the Rangers don’t look too interested in giving Choo a 7 year deal. There haven’t been many more names connected to the outfielder, and to make matters worse, Nelson Cruz still sits on the free agent market at a much cheaper price following his PED suspension.
I’m sure it’s not all doom and gloom in the Choo camp. The lefty will get paid eventually, and maybe teams will find a couple extra million dollars when the pitching market inevitably clears up, but there’s still a good chance that no one will match the Yankees’ offer. If this is the case, I do think the organization might talk to Choo again. If Tanaka is not posted, then the Yankees will be left in a relatively weak pitching market. By acquiring Choo, the Yankees could deal Brett Gardner in a package for a top of the rotation pitcher.
As for available pitchers, there was some discussions about trading for Homer Bailey a few weeks ago, as well as Justin Masterson, and even Jordan Zimmermann. Each of these other teams are in win-now mode, and the Indians and Reds have shown interest in Brett Gardner, while a deal with the Nationals would likely require a third team due to Denard Span.
Even if the Yankees aren’t seeking a starting pitcher, Brett Gardner could probably net them an infielder, something they need desperately if Alex Rodriguez is suspended. It seems that the Yankees will inevitably find themselves on the trade market and Gardner may be their best trade chip at this point. Signing Choo would certainly dull the loss of Gardner, and likely help the team with his left-handed swing and strong arm in the corner outfield spots.
Instead of overpaying in free agency for Matt Garza or Ubaldo Jimenez, or rolling the dice on Mark Reynolds or Brian Roberts in the infield, trading Gardner and signing Choo could be the best plan. With the dreams of a budget gone, the Yankees still have plenty of money left to spend before they reach their 2013 $228 million payroll.