The Rangers landed a left-handed bat, a potential leadoff hitter, a solid glove in a (to be determined) corner outfield spot, and a lot of bad train puns from Ranger Nation with the acquisition of Shin-Soo Choo via free agency Saturday.
The signing, which came almost exactly two years after the Rangers won the bidding war for Yu Darvish, is presumably their final big move of the offseason; especially if a USA Today report that Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka is likely to stay in Japan is true.
And it’s a move that needed to be made. While the Prince Fielder trade bolsters the middle of the lineup, it also sacrificed a big piece of Texas’s past offensive success in Ian Kinsler. It also hands over the starting second base job to 20-year-old Jurickson Profar.
That’s putting a lot of faith in a kid who wouldn’t have been legally allowed to drink the celebratory champagne had that Rangers reached the actual postseason.
So Choo, should he bat leadoff, is an established replacement at the top of the lineup for the departed Kinsler who can also steal some bases and hit for power. Choo has hit at least 16 home runs and stolen 20 or more bases in each of his last four full seasons.
His .423 on-base percentage is also 50 points higher than any Rangers regular in 2013 (Feel free to observe a moment of silence here for Craig Gentry, whose .373 OBP was highest among regular players last year).
Choo’s effectiveness on the field is unquestionable.
But where the addition may mean the most is off the field.
The Rangers are the only team in Major League history to go to back-to-back World Series and then lose in back-to-back Wild Card play-in games in the following two seasons.
That stat is especially fun and misleading because the Rangers have played in the only two Wild Card play-in games, as the two-team Wild Card format was introduced in 2012.
Regardless of the history there, something wasn’t clicking for the 2012 and -13 Rangers, whose late-season collapses are both well-documented and rather depressing. So something needed to be done, and the moves this offseason show that the front office is in the business of stopping that trend and returning to World-Series-contender status.
Seven years is a long commitment for a 31-year-old. But I'll give a hall pass for a "win-now" move by an organization that has primarily had a "win-later" mentality by building through the farm system.
Very much unlike the ownership of that other team in Arlington (who seem to be just fine with playing .500 ball in a monotonous and predictable fashion year-in and year-out), the Rangers' brass can’t be accused of not trying to succeed.
And now a club that won 91 games in 2013 appears to have improved, and has done more than keep pace in a busy offseason for its AL West foes.
So if You the Reader are a proponent of intangibles, things are looking up for the 2014 Rangers. They have nothing to take for granted, and, despite back-to-back years of monumental disappointment, the front office has given Rangers fans something to feel good about moving forward.
Choo chose Texas over New York (which offered him $140 million) for a reason.
$130 million is a lot of money. But it’s $23 million less than Jacoby Ellsbury, and $110 million less than Robinson Cano.
So, relatively speaking, Jon Daniels landed one of the top free agents in the 2013 market and addressed a need of the team, all without financially biting off more than he could Choo.
I’ll show myself the door.