Chicago Cubs team president Theo Epstein has worked his rebuilding plan since he took over the team's operations before the 2012 season. He has added much young talent in the system, and it may now be time for him to start adding some established veteran talent as well. Some of that that talent could come in the form of lead-off hitter and outfielder Shin-Soo Choo during the 2013 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings, which begin on Monday, December 9.
Bleacher Nation's Brett Taylor reports that the Cubs have already spoken with Choo and are "legitimately interested in signing him." Taylor heard baseball analyst Bruce Levine discussing the possibility on his radio show (podcast here, starting at the 4:30 mark). Levine says that the Cubs are willing to trade a second round draft pick as compensation to the Reds, who made the $14.1 million qualifying offer to the free agent center fielder.
Choo ranks #4 on CBS Sports.com's free agent position player list; only Jacoby Ellsbury ranked higher in the outfield before signing with the New York Yankees. Choo is expected to command a six-year, $100 million contract, which is very similar to what the Yankees gave Ellsbury. Choo made $7.375 million in 2013, and the Cubs can afford to pay him what he wants, especially when they finish paying off Alfonso Soriano's contract, $13 million of his $18 million 2014 salary.
The Cubs need a legitimate lead-off hitter, and Choo is just that. He had an on-base average of .423 for the Reds in 2013 (and has a career OBA of .389). He hit .285 with 21 HR and 20 steals in 154 games. He also had a WAR of 4.2. The Cubs traded away the closest thing they had to a lead-off hitter when they dealt David DeJesus to Washington in August.
Epstein has stated that he will continue to build his team from the Minors up, but if he has the chance to sign Choo, then he should. The Cubs need veteran presence, and Choo, age 31, has nine years of it including pennant race and postseason experience. He could give the team some fire and give Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro, and Nate Schierholtz a chance to drive in some runs.
The meetings will bring forth much news, some anticipated, and some expected. Cub fans should hope that this rumor becomes a true part of that news.
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