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Free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo has agreed to a seven-year contract for $130 million with the Texas Rangers, sources told Yahoo Sports on Saturday morning.
Choo presumably would bat leadoff for the Rangers, who traded their primary leadoff hitter – Ian Kinsler – to the Detroit Tigers for slugger Prince Fielder in November. Choo was second in the National League in on-base percentage last season to Cincinnati Reds teammate Joey Votto.
The Rangers also had been engaged with Nelson Cruz, who was their regular right fielder until he was suspended for 50 games as part of the Biogenesis investigation. They had some interest in bringing back Cruz, who hit 27 home runs – tied for 14th in the American League – in 109 games in 2013.
The Houston Astros, Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds and Seattle Mariners were believed to have a strong interest in Choo, an adept outfielder who, at 31, is a career .288 hitter with good power. The Yankees discussed the parameters of a seven-year, $140 million contract for Choo, but instead signed free agent Carlos Beltran to go alongside their big signing, Jacoby Ellsbury. Choo’s left-handed bat should play particularly well in Texas. Choo also has stolen at least 20 bases in four of his past five seasons.
Members of the Rangers’ front office and field staff met a few weeks ago with Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, in Southern California.
The Rangers and Boras worked well into Friday night and Saturday morning to put together the deal, which features a limited no-trade clause and no opt-outs or options.
Choo was ranked by many as the second-best outfielder in free agency, behind Ellsbury, another Boras client. He played for the Cleveland Indians for all or parts of seven seasons before being traded to the Reds a year ago in a three-way trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
For the Reds, he batted .285 with a .423 on-base percentage with 21 home runs and 20 steals. He was second in the NL with 107 runs scored.
After consecutive AL West titles and trips to the World Series, the Rangers finished second in the division to the Oakland A’s in 2012 and 2013. Choo basically will replace Cruz on the roster. The Rangers are expected to be players for Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, should he be posted by his team in the coming days.