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Why the Phillies should target Shin-Soo Choo

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If the Phillies want to add an impact bat at the trade deadline, none would be bigger than the Texas DH/OF.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Phillies offense needs some help.

The lineup is striking out in exactly one-quarter of its plate appearances, the 2nd-highest total in the National League. Their .310 team-wide wOBA is 10th out of 15 NL teams, as is their team OPS of .711, with a wRC+ of 92 that is tied for 9th.

They have a batting average of .236 and a slugging percentage of .390 that are both 4th-lowest, and their 429 runs scored this season are just the 10th-most in the National League. They go through maddening stretches where scoring runs seems about as easy as squeezing coal into a diamond in your bare hand.

In short, the offense makes you want to punch a wall sometimes.

Which is why the Phils need an upgrade. With a one-game lead in the NL East heading into their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team is fighting for the division title with a collection of bats that are having trouble supporting their overachieving pitching staff. And with Manny Machado off the board, there really doesn’t seem to be an obvious big-time upgrade except for one player.

Texas’ Shin Soo Choo.

Impact Bat

On Saturday, Choo had his 52-game on-base streak snapped, the longest such streak in a dozen years. In 93 games for the Texas Rangers, Choo is hitting .288/.400/.493 with 18 home runs, 44 RBI and 55 runs scored. He has a .387 wOBA and a wRC+ of 143, with an fWAR of 2.9 and a bWAR of 3.0.

He’s walking in 14.8% of his plate appearances this year, the 2nd-highest mark of his career. His .205 isolated power is also 2nd-best, with 20 doubles and a hard-hit rate of 45.9% that is better than he has ever done before.

The Negatives

Choo is having the best season of his career at 36 years old, which is awfully impressive. But his contract could be a real problem.

He is signed for another two years, at $20 million per season, his age-37 and 38 seasons. These are not ages where baseball players generally continue to play like $20 million players.

But perhaps the bigger problem is his defense. Right now, he barely plays any defense because he’s the Rangers’ full-time DH. Were he to come to the NL, he’d have to dust his glove off and play right field.

That’s where things get hairy.

Choo has played 10 games in left field this year and 19 games in right, and he hasn’t been very good when playing either position. He’s been worth -1 Defensive Run Saved in 86.1 innings in left this season and -2 DRS in 170.0 innings in right.

Defensive metrics are generally unreliable and I hate using them, but for lack of anything else to use, I present them to you as a method of quantifying Choo’s poor glove work. The bottom line is he would make an already porous Phillies defense even leakier.

Ignore The Defense?

But think about it this way — Choo’s bad defense is nothing new. In 2012, his DRS as an outfielder for the Indians was -10. A year later for the Reds, it was -18! He followed that up with seasons of -12 and -11 for the Rangers, before settling into a mostly-DH role with Texas the last three seasons.

In other words, this ain’t new.

He can’t do a whole lot worse in right field than his -18 season in Cincinnati, right? And if it’s just as bad, he was still worth 6.4 fWAR that season, because he was so good offensively. As a team, the Phils are already worth -4 DRS at that position this season, so how big a hit would the Phillies take defensively than they already are dealing with?

You would have to pity the pitching staff and poor Odubel Herrera, of course, but that staff may be willing to make the trade-off for more offense.

Swallow The Contract

One thing the Phils have plenty of is money. And if they don’t want to part with top prospects at the trade deadline (which is understandable), they can take on bloated contracts quite easily. It’s also likely the Rangers would be thrilled to rid Choo’s $40-50 million contract from their books over the next couple seasons.

If the Phils take on all of his salary, or even most of it, the cost in prospects would likely be lower. And, as The Athletic’s Eno Sarris mentioned, it’s possible they could go even bigger and grab Cole Hamels — who has been much better on the road than at home since joining the Rangers — or perhaps Adrian Beltre, as part of a larger deal.

Conclusion

There are some other quality bats that could be available. Asdrubal Cabrera would be a big help, specifically at shortstop. Nick Castellanos would also be a terrific addition, although because he is signed through next year and is about 10 years younger than Choo, would cost more in prospects. And Minnesota’s Eduardo Escobar is having a fantastic power season with Minnesota, but there are questions over whether his career year will last.

Choo would likely provide the Phillies with the biggest offensive upgrade, if they can stomach the defensive shortcomings and contractual challenges that come along with him. With a low payroll and a real need for a big bat in the middle of the lineup, Shin Soo Choo might be the perfect fit.