One of the ongoing storylines for 2017 is how the Rangers will end up setting up their outfield, and whether Shin-Soo Choo will be a full-time DH in 2017. With Nomar Mazara better suited to right field — Choo’s position — than left field, and with Choo having graded out poorly defensively in the outfield for a while now, and with Choo having difficulties staying on the field anyway, it seems like Choo transitioning to being primarily a designated hitter is something that would make a lot of sense.
Choo apparently said today that he has talked to Jeff Banister about it and was fine with being a DH...but with that meaning he would be a DH once a series, or twice a week, something like that, rather than being a full-time DH.
Which is understandable. No player wants to be relegated to a DH role, and given the current makeup of the Rangers’ roster, I can’t imagine that Banister would be in a place to say, you’re going to be just a DH.
A lot of the problem stems from the uncertain nature of several positions right now. The Rangers will, it sounds like, almost certainly sign a righthanded hitting 1B/DH-type, with Mike Napoli being the preferred option, Chris Carter also being an option, and Pedro Alvarez being still on the market. My guess is that when we get closer to spring training, and a multi-year offer doesn’t materialize for Napoli, he’ll end up signing with the Rangers on a one year deal for somewhere around $8-10 million.
That, theoretically, would give the Rangers a regular first baseman. Or Napoli could split time with Josh Hamilton at first base in a platoon. Or Napoli could split time with Jurickson Profar at first base in a platoon, with Profar also being the primary backup infielder.
And that could mean that Ryan Rua and Jurickson Profar could platoon at left field, or platoon at DH, depending on what Choo does. Or the Rangers could end up getting a plus defensive center fielder as their fourth outfielder, allowing them to use Carlos Gomez in left field more often, with Mazara in right field.
So its complicated, in part because we don’t have a real handle on who is going to be here, if Josh Hamilton is really a viable option, if Profar and Rua are going to play regular roles. And so, at this point, getting buy-in from Choo on being a DH sometimes should be sufficient.
My guess, for what it is worth, is that if Choo stays healthy, he will end up getting the majority of his playing time at DH, particularly as the season goes on. And if he doesn’t stay healthy, well, it is kind of moot.
But the Rangers need a healthy Choo. When he’s right, he’s an OBP machine at the top of the order, and the Rangers are on the hook for $82 million over the next four years anyway. If putting him at DH the bulk of the time is more likely to keep him healthy, that’s what I think the Rangers will do, as part of an arrangement that sees other players rotate through the spot from time to time as well.