Just a year ago, the Cincinnati Reds were riding high on the super leadoff abilities of their new center fielder, Shin-Soo Choo, but the Texas Rangers swooped in with big free agent dollars in December and Shoo was gone after just one season. This year has been tough for the Reds, but, as Matt Snyder of CBS Sports reports, it’s been even worse for Choo and the Rangers. With Choo set for season-ending elbow surgery after a mostly disappointing season, not re-signing him looks like one of the few good moves the Reds have made in the last 12 months.
While no one could have expected Choo, 32, to keep up the torrid pace he set with the Reds last summer (21 HR, 20 SB, .423 OBP, .462 SLG), the Rangers probably expected more for their $14-million outlay than league-average offense over 123 games. The Reds, for sure, had to expect a dropoff atop the order and in center field, and that’s exactly what they got.
The funny thing is, though, that the dropoff was not nearly as dramatic as it could have been, and not much at all when you compare this year’s Choo to his Cincinnati replacement, rookie Billy Hamilton. Hamilton has had his ups and downs but has generally hit better than expected and played a very solid center field. His blazing speed has been on full display, of course, and he quickly turned potential trouble spots (CF and the leadoff hitter) into areas of stability.
Reliability has been hard to come by for the 2014 Reds and first-year manager Bryan Price, so Hamilton gets extra points for his “rockness.”
Hamilton also scores high on the relative value scale, thanks to the fact that he’s earning about $13.5 million less than Choo for comparable production AND he’s still playing. He’s also nine years younger and won’t catch up to Choo’s escalating salaries any time soon. By the time Hamilton reaches his 29th birthday, Choo will be 37 years old and making $21 million per year.
So, no, Billy Hamilton in 2014 is not as good as Shin-Soo Choo was in 2013, but the youngster has been one of the Reds’ few bright spots and provides a little hope for the future. As a long, lost season winds down, that’s about all we can hope for.