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OF Choo officially introduced as a Ranger

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The Canadian Press
12/27/2013 8:44:19 PM
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ARLINGTON, Texas -- Shin-Soo Choo will be the leadoff hitter for the Texas Rangers in an offence they feel they have successfully remade this off-season.

Choo was formally introduced Friday, nearly a week after agreeing to a $130 million, seven-year deal.

"It was a perfect fit," general manager Jon Daniels said. "His skill set, his personality, his personal goals and desires really lineup up perfectly with ours and what our club needed. ... He's really been one of the most productive offensive players in the game for a period of time now."

The 31-year-old South Korean outfielder has a .288 career average and .389 on-base percentage in 853 major league games for Seattle (2005-06), Cleveland (2006-12) and Cincinnati (2013).

Choo has at least 20 homers and 20 stolen bases three times, including last season when he started 150 games in centre field and was the primary leadoff hitter for the Reds in his only year there.

With numerous teams interested during free agency, Choo said he was looking for a winning team and somewhere his wife and three young children would be comfortable.

"The Texas Rangers were the best fit for me," Choo said. "It was very easy to pick."

Agent Scott Boras called it a "tremendous baseball fit" for both sides.

Texas last month acquired five-time All-Star first baseman Prince Fielder from Detroit in a trade for second baseman Ian Kinsler.

Only Mike Trout (564) and Miguel Cabrera (562) have reached base more than last two seasons than Choo (556) and Fielder (542).

"We talked early on about our desire to remake our offence, both in personnel, but also equally importantly in style," Daniels said. "We feel very good about what we've been able to accomplish to this point."

Texas missed the playoffs for the first time in four years and scored only 730 runs, its fewest in a non-strike season since 1992.

Choo was presented jersey No. 17, which had been worn by free-agent slugger Nelson Cruz, the 2011 AL championship series MVP who hit 27 home runs with 76 RBIs in 109 games for Texas last season. Cruz was suspended 50 games after Major League Baseball's investigation into a Florida clinic accused of distributing banned performance-enhancing drugs, but returned to play in the AL wild-card tiebreaker game the Rangers lost.

The addition of Choo, whose salary will average about $18.6 million per season, also lessens the likelihood of Texas being serious bidders for Japanese star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Rangers co-owner Bob Simpson said the team is 'comfortable where we are in terms of financial commitment " and that "Tanaka would be a tough thing."

The Texas payroll is expected to be over $130 million next season. When the ownership group took over during the 2010 season, the same year the Rangers went to the first of consecutive World Series, the payroll was less than $60 million.

Choo's deal is the third-richest this off-season, behind only Robinson Cano ($240 million, 10 years from Seattle) and Jacoby Ellsbury ($153 million, seven years from New York Yankees). Choo will make $14 million in 2014 and 2015, $20 million from 2016-18, and $21 million the last two years of the deal. There is also a limited no-trade clause and award bonuses, the largest being $250,000 for being selected AL MVP.

Rangers manager Ron Washington plans to play Choo in left field and utilize him at the top of the batting order. He had a .423 OBP with Cincinnati and scored 107 runs last season.

"He'll be the kind of guy to come back to the dugout and let everyone know exactly what that pitcher is doing. ... That's old-school baseball right there," Washington said. "He's a young man bringing old-school values, and that's what I like the most."

Shin-Soo Choo (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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