If you like a .423 OBP, you probably enjoyed Shin-Soo Choo's 2013 season with the Cincinnati Reds. The Texas Rangers hope they are headed on the right track in signing Choo to a 7 year, $130M deal.
Critics will point to Choo's poor splits against LHPs last season: .215/.347/.265. But all that means is that Choo REALLY hit RHPs: .317/.457/.554. It is hard to spin Choo's 2013 season as anything but fantexcellent, leaving the key question to be: Are the Rangers paying for past performance, or will they get superlative future performance?
The answer is likely a bit of both. Over his career, Choo has a superlative .389 OBP, and a .933 OPS against RHP. Then again, in 2012 Choo's OBP was a more human .373, his OPS all of .815, and Texas is paying him like the stud he was in 2013, not like the "really good player" he was before that. Choo is 31 and is signing a deal that will take him through his age 38 season. If Texas is blessed, Choo will "decline" like Adrian Beltre was supposed to over the life of his 5-year (plus voidable option) deal. If Texas is cursed, Choo will follow the Albert Pujols/Josh Hamilton model of "declining at the precise moment he completes his signature on the contract".
In all likelihood, Choo's contract will be a bit of an albatross in its final couple of years but he will help the Rangers become serious contenders in at least 2014. I'm not ready to say that signing Choo makes Texas a favorite in the AL West, as the A's have been a mid-90s win team for 2 years and look solid going into 2014. I am, however, ready to say the Rangers are elevated to "ruh-roh" status: That any gap between them and Oakland has, at the very least, now been severely narrowed. Your thoughts?