NEW YORK – The Rangers have made another Texas-sized deal to improve their offense.
Free agent outfielder Choo Shin-soo agreed to a $130 million, seven-year contract with the Rangers, a person familiar with the deal told AP Saturday.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no official announcement about the deal that is pending a physical for Choo. That person said the physical is expected to be done before Christmas, and that any formal introduction in Texas likely wouldn’t come until after the holiday Wednesday.
The deal came a month after the Rangers acquired five-time All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder in a trade with Detroit for second baseman Ian Kinsler, their primary leadoff hitter.
Texas now gets the best offensive player left in free agency, with both additions to be under contract through the 2020 season.
Choo’s deal, worth about $18.6 million per season, is the third-highest this offseason. Second baseman Robinson Cano got $240 million over 10 years from Seattle and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, like Choo, a client of agent Scott Boras, signed a $153 million, seven-year contract with the New York Yankees.
Choo could be at the top or in the middle of the Texas lineup. He was Cincinnati’s leadoff hitter for 143 games last season, when he had a .423 on-base percentage with 20 stolen bases and 21 homers.
Choo’s deal calls for salaries of $14 million in 2014 and 2015, $21 million in 2016 and 2017, and $20 million in each of the last three years of the deal. He can earn a bonus for finishing in the top five of the AL MVP balloting — from $250,000 as the winner to $50,000 for fifth place. He would get a $150,000 bonus for being a World Series MVP, and an additional $100,000 for being an AL Championship Series MVP or an All-Star, or for winning a Silver Slugger or Gold Glove award.
There will also be a limited no-trade clause, with Choo able each year to submit a list of 10 teams he can’t be dealt to without his consent.
Fielder, a .286 career hitter, was only two seasons into his $214 million, nine-year contract with Detroit when he was traded to Texas. That deal includes $30 million going back to the Rangers, though the first payment of $4 million won’t come until 2016, followed by $6 million in 2017 and 2018, and $7 million in 2019 and 2020.
Choo has a .288 career batting average and .389 OBP with 104 home runs and 427 RBIs in 853 major league games for Seattle (2005-06), Cleveland (2006-12) and Cincinnati. The 31-year-old South Korean had at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases three times.
While Choo started 150 games for the Reds in center field, he will likely play left field for Texas. The Rangers have Leonys Martin in center and Alex Rios in right.
Martin victim in case
Like many Cuban baseball stars, outfielder Leonys Martin dreamed of leaving the communist island for the bright lights and big money of Major League Baseball. Martin accomplished his goal in 2011 when he signed with the Texas Rangers, but not before what court documents and the Justice Department describe as a harrowing ordeal in which he was held for ransom in Mexico while his family members were kept under surveillance in South Florida.
Three people have been indicted in Miami on federal charges of hostage-taking and extortion conspiracy — counts that carry potential life prison sentences if they are convicted — and Martin himself is suing his alleged kidnappers for the return of more than $1.3 million he has already paid them.
Andrew Zimbalist, a Smith College professor who specializes in sports economics, said the Martin case appears unique.
“I have never heard of a kidnapping case like this,” Zimbalist said.
Many Cubans have defected over the years to play ball in the U.S., including such current stars as Cincinnati Reds pitcher Aroldis Chapman, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and Oakland Athletics outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. In September, the Cuban government reversed decades of policy by announcing that its athletes will be allowed to sign contracts to compete in foreign leagues without defecting.
Martin, 25, a speedy center fielder for the Rangers, made his MLB debut in September 2011. Last season, in 147 games, he hit .260 with 49 RBIs and 36 stolen bases. Martin and his attorney, Paul Minoff, declined comment for this story, as did the Rangers and MLB officials, citing the ongoing litigation.