Shin-Soo Choo Sets Contract Record for Asians in MLB

Former Reds outfielder Shin-soo Choo has signed one of the biggest contracts in MLB history for outfielders and the first ever over $100 million among Asians in Major League Baseball.

A day after passing on a $140-mil. deal with the New York Yankees, Choo signed a 7-year, $130-mil. deal with the Texas Rangers Saturday. That’s the 27th biggest contract in MLB history. Among outfielders it’s behind only those signed by Manny Ramirez ($160 million), Matt Kemp ($160 million), Jacoby Ellsbury ($153 million), Carl Crawford ($142 million) and Alfonso Soriano ($136 million).

After failing to advance to the postseason last year the Rangers are eager to beef up their offense, and Choo is seen as their new leadoff batter. Choo had the fourth-best on-base percentage (OBP) in the majors last season at .423. In the National League it was second only to that of former Reds teammate Joey Votto. Last season Choo slugged 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and 20 steals. His career average OBP is .389 OBP and slugging percentage is .465 with 101 home runs.

Observers had been scratching their heads at Choo’s rejection of the Yankee’s $140-mil. offer made Wednesday. The reason appears to be an earlier handshake deal with the Rangers, according to a source cited by Korean JoongAng Daily.

Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels had met with Choo and agent Scott Boras on December 3 to express the team’s desire to sign Choo and to present Rangers uniforms to Choo and his family. Daniels had opened with an offer of $120 million. Boras was asking for an 8-year $180-mil. deal. Offers also came in from the Mariners on Dec. 7 and the Arizona Diamondbacks on Dec. 8. Choo is said to have favored Arizona’s offer because he and his family have been living in that state. But now he is said to have decided to move.

On Monday the Rangers offered a seven-year deal to which they attached the figure of $130 million on Saturday. Choo was willing to consider less money than offered by the Yankees because he and his wife didn’t want their three kids living in a crowded city like New York, according to the source. Another factor was Choo’s belief that the Rangers are closer to a World Series title than the Yankees.

Choo’s deal trumps those signed by other major Asian major-leaguers, including the $65-mil. deal signed by compatriot Park Chan-ho in 2002 and the $52-mil., 4-year deal signed by Hideki Matsui in 2005. The only other Asian player to come close to Choo’s anticipated salary is Ichiro Suzuki who earned a total of $125.6 mil. during his peak 7 years with the Mariners during the 2006 through 2012 seasons. — Day Nahm Kagy