The Texas Rangers will have a new look heading into 2014, and signing Shin-Soo Choo could be the move that wins them the AL West.
Of all the divisions in baseball, the AL West really experienced quite the shake-up this offseason. The Mariners added Robinson Cano, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison; the Athletics brought in Scott Kazmir, Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson; the Angels signed Raul Ibanez and Joe Smith and traded for David Freese; and even the Astros added Dexter Fowler and Scott Feldman.
But the Rangers have also now made a few big splashes. After back-to-back World Series appearances in 2010 and 2011, the Rangers finished second to the Athletics in the AL West in each of the past two years -- though the team still won over 90 games.
The Prince Fielder trade really looks like a good one for Texas. He will abuse that short porch at the Ballpark at Arlington. Ian Kinsler may have been a fan favorite, but with both Elvis Andrus and Jurickson Profar on the team, the Rangers were forced to use an area of strength to address a weakness.
Now with Choo in the fold, the Rangers -- especially with their top-notch starting pitching staff -- will again be right in the mix for the AL West crown, even with the improvements to the other squads.
Texas signed Choo to a seven-year, $130 million deal to play left field. The Rangers were in the market of an outfielder all offseason, and once Jacoby Ellsbury signed with the Yankees, Choo became the logical choice.
Reports indicated that Choo turned down a seven-year, $140 million deal with the Yankees before the Bronx Bombers signed Carlos Beltran. So while Choo left $10 million on the table, Texas seems to be the better fit for a player who has spent his entire career in smaller markets: Seattle, Cleveland and Cincinnati.
The Rangers lineup figures to be balanced throughout. Choo thrived in the leadoff role last season for the Reds, but he should settle nicely into the No. 3 spot for Texas. The lineup may look something like the following: Leonys Martin, center field; Andrus, shortstop; Choo, left field; Adrian Beltre, third base; Fielder, first base; Alex Rios, right field; Mitch Moreland, designated hitter; J.P. Arencibia/Geovany Soto, catcher; and Profar, second base.
There may be some slight variation here or there, but this lineup would have a solid combination of speed and power. It may take some time for Martin to develop into a consistent leadoff hitter, but if he has trouble, Choo could easily slide into that role.
Either way, the Rangers appear poised to compete for another AL pennant and maybe even earn the first World Series ring in franchise history. They’ve been close recently but have not been able to come through on the big stage.
Seven years for a player who will turn 32 this season is certainly a gamble, but the Rangers are ready to win right now, even if that means dealing with the bad contract of an aging player down the road.
If Texas wins even one World Series during Choo’s seven years, the deal will be worth it from the team’s perspective.
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