Choo-Choo Choose Again

The Texas Rangers outfield needs work. There isn’t a single person who watched a game in 2013 who doesn’t understand that. David Murphy and Nelson Cruz are free agents, and even if they weren’t, those positions needed an upgrade. The right field hole that could’ve been fixed, was when Nelson Cruz was suspended and forced a trade that brought Alex Rios. Leonys Martin earned the start in centerfield, and rightfully so. David Murphy was miserable, and is likely not coming back in left field. Outfield free agents are being discussed. Who should take that left field spot?
The two biggest outfield free agents this offseason are Shin-Soo Choo and Jacoby Ellsbury. Choo has been the one most talked about. There are two big flaws with him that would make a front office weary of handing him big money. As a left-handed player, he doesn’t hit lefties very well. During the 2013 season, he hit RHP at a .317/.457/.554 clip with a wRC+ of 183, which is something that could garner the big money. However, versus LHP he only hit .215/.347/.265 with a wRC+ of 81. While he still gets on base relatively well, his power and average are absolutely gone against LHP. The second weakness is his defense. The only position where he doesn’t regularly post negative defensive numbers is left field, but he’s only played 524 innings there. 

The positives for Choo are his plate discipline and his over-all value. Choo consistently has a walk rate of over 10%, which is phenomenal early season Lance Berkman-like on-base magic. He also swings at a low number of pitches outside the zone, explaining the high walk percentage. This season his slash line was .288/.423/.462 with 21 homeruns, and he posted a 5.2 fWAR. In years where he’s had greater than 300 plate appearances, he has an average 3.8 fWAR. He usually puts up good overall numbers, but knowing the Rangers struggles with soft-tossing lefty pitchers, they need a player who can hit both.

Jacoby Ellsbury will also be a free agent once the Red Sox are taken down by the Tigers (or A’s if they won last night, but this is my article, and I write what I want to). Ellsbury also has the left-handed pitching problem. His line for 2013 vs RHP was .328/.374/.489, but for LHP it was .246/.323/.318. While that’s better than Choo, it’s a big difference from his RHP line. Ellsbury also has a history of injury. He missed large portions of 2010 and 2012 with an ankle injury. However, he stayed healthy in 2013.

Ellsbury is a strong defender. He very much overpowers Choo in UZR, total zone rating, and almost every other aspect except arm strength. His overall value is good as well, with a 5.8 fWAR from 2013. In seasons where he had greater than 300 plate appearances, his average fWAR is 4.5. Ellsbury is also a year and a half younger than Shin-Soo Choo. However, Ellsbury is reportedly looking at getting $120 million+ this off season, which, at five or six years, isn’t exactly something I’d like to spend on him.

In the battle of Ellsbury vs Choo, I’d choo-choo-choose Ellsbury. He has better value, and he’s younger. His defense is really good. However in the battle of which free agent to sign, I choo-choo-choose Brian McCann, with Jose Abreu a close second. Then maybe I’d choose Ellsbury. The money has to be spent wisely, and for me, that’s not on an outfielder. Good catchers are hard to find, and McCann is a just that. First base is a void that needs to be addressed. Ian Kinsler can move to LF or 1B, but given the opportunity to pay Abreu or Ellsbury, I’d want Abreu. So say hello to Ian Kinsler, (possibly) 2014 left fielder.
Emily Cates is a Staff Writer for Shutdown Inning. You can reach her at or  on Twitter at @EmLikesBaseball.
Emily Cates

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