Our long lead-off nightmare is over.
According to Jon Heyman of CBS Sports and Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Reds GM Walt Jocketty has traded Drew Stubbs and Didi Gregorius for Cleveland outfielder Shin Soo Choo and utility IF Jason Donald [update: plus $3.5 million to the Reds].
Here’s the most important thing you need to know about the Reds’ new acquisition:
That’s Choo’s record in 461 plate appearances batting lead-off for Cleveland, mostly last year. It closely tracks his career numbers overall: .289/.381/.465.
I didn’t double-check his math, but John Fay calculates that Choo’s higher OBP will result in reaching base 105 times more than Reds lead-off hitters accomplished in 2012. JoeyMVP smiles at that statistic. The Reds lead-off hitters managed .208/.254/.327 last season. (Mike Leake’s OBP was .309.)
Biography Shin Soo Choo is 30 years old. He bats and throws left-handed. He’s from Pusan, South Korea and was signed by the Seattle Mariners in August, 2000. In July 2006, he was traded to Cleveland for Ben Broussard. Choo led the South Korean team to the gold medal in the 2010 Asian Games, earning himself and all his teammates an exemption from their nation’s mandatory military service requirement.
Contract Status: Choo will be a free agent at the end of the 2013 season. Last year, in his second year of arbitration he earned $4.6 million. Matt Schwartz at MLBTR estimates that Choo will earn $7.9 million via arbitration this year. Drew Stubbs was estimated to make $2.9 million. Choo’s agent is Scott Boras.
Power Stats: Excluding his injury shortened 2011 season, Choo has averaged 19 home runs and 37 doubles since 2009. Last season he was 10th in all of baseball with 43 doubles. Choo’s career ISO (isolated power, the difference between his AVG and SLG) is .176. MLB average ISO is .151. Choo gives the Reds another powerful left-handed bat in the lineup. And batting first, there’s no risk of the streams crossing with any other Reds LH hitter.
Stolen bases: Again, excluding 2011, Choo has averaged 21 SB and 5 CS since 2009.
Plate Discipline: Shin Soo Choo’s walk-rate is 11.4% – well above the league average of 8.4%. He sees an average of 3.97 pitches per plate appearance with the MLB average being 3.79 PPA.
Clutchiness: Choo’s hitting with RISP: .289/.374/.466. This one makes Marty happy, but the rest of you should ignore it.
Yes, there are plenty of legitimate concerns. Choo will probably only be with the Reds for one year (but what a wonderful contract year it could be). He hasn’t really played much CF in the past half decade and he may have lost a step on defense at that. A few balls that Drew Stubbs would have caught in the alley will go for doubles. Choo’s once-feared arm may have dropped off a bit last year. What now if Zack Cozart gets hurt?
But for now, just think of that sweet, sweet OBP batting first and getting the most AB for your Cincinnati Reds.