Rangers unveil Choo, don't expect Cruz back
On a day when the Texas Rangers welcomed Shin-Soo Choo as the club's new leadoff hitter and left fielder, they also likely waved goodbye to Nelson Cruz and said they don't expect to be big players in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- On a day when the Texas Rangers welcomed Shin-Soo Choo as the club's new leadoff hitter and left fielder, they also likely waved goodbye to Nelson Cruz and said they don't expect to be big players in the Masahiro Tanaka sweepstakes.
Choo was introduced at a news conference at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington wearing No. 17, Cruz's old number. General manager Jon Daniels said he reached out to Cruz and agent Adam Katz when the Choo deal was completed. Daniels said he wouldn't "100 percent close any doors" on a Cruz reunion but doesn't think the slugger will return to Texas.
"I think realistically that his best opportunity may be elsewhere and I'm expecting him to sign elsewhere, but we genuinely care about the guy and appreciate what he's done here and wanted to communicate that to him personally," Daniels said.
Choo's seven-year deal, which sources said is worth $130 million, puts the Rangers over their targeted budget. The deal pays Choo $14 million in each of the first two seasons, $20 million for each of the three seasons after that and $21 million in each of the final two years of the contract.
"Today is a dream come true," Choo said. "My next dream is to win World Series rings."
Bob Simpson, co-chairman of the Rangers board, indicated that the club doesn't have much room to add more payroll. That likely means Tanaka, who was posted this week by his team in Japan, is an unlikely fit, although the Rangers are likely to talk to the right-hander's representatives.
"We're probably comfortable where we are in terms of financial commitments, and Tanaka would be a tough thing," Simpson said. "I guess I should never say never, but at the moment, we're more interested in just rounding out our team [rather] than marquee players."
Simpson said he believes the Rangers should be the favorite in the American League West.
Rangers manager Ron Washington said Friday that Choo will lead off and play left field in 2014, though the skipper noted Choo's versatility defensively in that he can play all three outfield spots.
The 31-year-old batted .285 with 21 homers, 54 RBIs and 20 stolen bases as the Reds' leadoff hitter in 2013. He also scored 107 runs, and his on-base percentage of .423 was the fourth best in baseball. It's that ability to get on base and then put pressure on the opponent by running that makes Choo such a solid top-of-the-order hitter.
Choo saw 4.23 pitches per plate appearance last season, the second most in the National League. His approach is something hitting coach Dave Magadan is attempting to relay to his offense for 2014.
"He's the type of guy that believes in sharing," Washington said. "He's that one guy that can come back and express to those other guys what he feels the pitcher has working and what he feels he doesn't have working. He's my leadoff guy."
Washington praised Choo's work ethic and ability to get on base.
By leading off, Choo also allows Washington to move Leonys Martin down a bit in the order. Martin was penciled in as the leadoff hitter when Ian Kinsler was traded to the Detroit Tigers as part of the Prince Fielder deal prior to Thanksgiving. Now Martin can concentrate on center field, and Washington can figure out where he best fits in the lineup.
Choo completes the Rangers' outfield trio, joining Alex Rios in right field and Martin in center.
Michael Choice, 24, will get the chance to come into the spring and compete for a bench spot, but Choo's signing means there is no pressure to rush Choice. If he's ready to play, he'll play. If not, he could start the season in the minors.
What Washington likely won't have in that lineup in 2014 is Cruz's bat. The slugger, who missed the final 50 games of the 2013 season, still has not signed with a new team. The Rangers have expressed interest but decided that Choo was their priority.
"We use the term 'good fit' a lot when we look at players to add, but in this case, it was the perfect fit," Daniels said. "His skill set, personality, his personal goals line up with ours and what our club needed. He's been one of the most productive offensive players in the game. I'm not sure the casual fan realizes that. But he creates run-scoring opportunities for himself and others."
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