Do the Tigers need to add a marquee player to their outfield for the 2014 season? We have no idea, but there are several available this offseason. While Carlos Beltran might be the bigger name available, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Shin-Soo Choo might provide a bit more long term security.
Who is he?
Shin-Soo Choo is only 31 years old, but he is already far-and-away the best Korean born player in MLB history. While that probably says more about his countrymen than him, but Choo has proven to be a productive player throughout his career. After he made his major league debut with the Seattle Mariners in 2005, he was traded for noted superstar Ben Broussard and shipped to Cleveland. From there, Choo tormented the Tigers for six and a half years, posting an .886 OPS in 343 career plate appearances. He spent the 2013 batting leadoff for the Cincinnati Reds, drawing a career high 112 walks and scoring 107 runs.
Why should we care?
If you were paying attention when Choo was roaming the Cleveland Indians' outfield, then you need no introduction to his skill set. Still, let's go blow-by-blow. He hits for average, including three consecutive seasons with a .300 average or better from 2008 to 2010. He hits for power, with three 20-homer seasons since 2009. He draws walks -- though he probably won't match this season's ridiculous 15.7% walk rate again. He plays good defense in the corner outfield spots and has a cannon for an arm. He has 50 outfield assists in the last five years, sixth among all major league outfielders. He can even steal bases, having swiped 20 bags in four of the past five years.
Why should we stay away?
One reason I would avoid signing Choo is if someone else decides to give him a ridiculous contract. He has been worth 24.4 wins above replacement in the last six seasons despite playing in fewer than 100 games in two of those years. At 31, he isn't as likely to drop off as Carlos Beltran, and Choo does enough things well to still be a productive player for years to come.
Tying in to the contract worries, it might not be the best idea for the Tigers to offer big money to a guy who struggles hitting left-handed pitching as much as Choo does. Choo hit a whopping .317/.457/.554 against right-handed pitchers last season, but posted a .217/.347/.265 line against lefties. In his career, Choo has a .932 OPS against right-handed pitchers compared to a .680 OPS against lefties.
Will he end up in Detroit?
I hope so. Despite the struggles against lefties, Choo is a well-rounded outfielder who can play all three spots -- though leaving him in Comerica's center field for long stretches isn't advised. He is only 31 and would potentially solve the corner outfield conundrum created when Avisail Garcia was traded for Jose Iglesias. An outfield trio of Choo, Austin Jackson, and Torii Hunter would be quite impressive in 2014, allowing Nick Castellanos to spend another year in the minors. Is the organization looking for an outfielder at this point? We can't be sure, but Choo seems like the right fit.