Choo's situation a hot topic at Meetings

Choo's situation a hot topic at Meetings

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Any hope that the Indians were in the midst of quietly negotiating a contract extension with star outfielder Shin-Soo Choo was shattered on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings.

Agent Scott Boras, who represents Choo, declined to offer specifics on contract talks involving multiple players and teams. When asked about Choo, however, Boras made it clear that he has had no discussions with Indians general manager Chris Antonetti about a long-term deal for the outfielder.

Boras added that he did not expect to discuss the matter at the Meetings, which conclude on Thursday.

"I don't think I'll be doing a lot of discussing on those fronts right now," Boras said.

The situation surrounding Choo overshadowed any other talks the Indians held throughout Wednesday. Cleveland continued dialogue with a handful of free agents and remains interested in signing infielder Nick Punto. The Tribe also officially signed catcher Paul Phillips to a Minor League contract that includes an invitation to attend Spring Training.

Of more importance, though, was the conversation that did not take place.

Choo, 28, is eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter, so Antonetti will need to meet with Boras to negotiate a contract with the outfielder later in the offseason. Earlier this week, Antonetti said those circumstances likely mean talk of an extension would arise naturally.

Boras did not necessarily agree with that take on the situation.

"Most arbitration discussions don't end in multiyear contracts, that's for sure," Boras said. "But, again, I've not had that discussion with Chris yet. When I do, I'll know more about it."

Antonetti was hopeful that he would be able to address the situation with Boras at some point within the next few weeks.

"It's something we remain interested in," said Antonetti, referring to signing Choo to an extension. "Scott's really busy at the Meetings. He's got a lot of things on his plate. He has a lot of free agents that are out there and I know that he's spending a lot of time doing that. Also, I think if you look at the marketplace, there haven't been a lot of arbitration-eligible players that have signed multiyear deals. There's not a list of those guys.

"There tends to be a natural timeline to the offseason and hopefully shortly after the Meetings I'll have an opportunity to talk with Scott and, at that point, he and I can communicate directly on how we see things and address potential concerns for each other and see if there's potentially common ground."

Last season, Choo hit .300 with 22 home runs and 90 RBIs in 144 games. He added 31 doubles, 81 runs scored and 22 stolen bases to go along with a .401 on-base percentage. Choo became the first Indians player since 1901 to have at least a .300 average, 20 homers and 20 stolen bases in consecutive seasons.

Last month, Choo helped guide South Korea to a gold medal in the Asian Games by hitting .571 with three homers and 11 RBIs in five games. That victory earned Choo an exemption from his country's two-year military service requirement.

Through arbitration, Choo could see his salary rise somewhere around the $3 million to $4 million range in 2011 after earning $461,100 last season. If Cleveland does not sign him to a long-term deal, Choo would be eligible for free agency following the '13 season.

Given the Tribe's current situation, Boras said it could be difficult to reach an agreement on a long-term deal. The Indians finished last in baseball in attendance in 2010, are currently scaling back their payroll and plan on fielding a young roster in the upcoming season.

In a perfect world, Cleveland would like to sign Choo beyond his first free-agent year to lock him in as an integral part of the club's core group. Whether that will be possible for the Indians to accomplish remains to be seen.

"That's something that I'm sure Chris and I will sit down and chat about," Boras said. "Again, the dynamics of it are one where that's going to be Shin-Soo's decision about what he may want to do or not do.

"I do think it's tougher -- it's always tougher -- in situations where you're a club that's a developmental team, to know where the club's going to be two or three years from now. So those situations are always a little more difficult.

"But, again, we listen to every team and pass it on to the player and see what he says."

Asked about Boras' comments, Antonetti said that he firmly believes the Indians -- even after losing 93 games last season and dropping 97 in 2009 -- are a team on the rise. The Tribe's general manager added that Choo has expressed similar excitement over the potential that exists within Cleveland's young cast of players.

"I feel very strongly about the future of the organization," Antonetti said. "We're on the upswing. We expect 2011 to be better than 2010 and we certainly expect 2012 to be even better than that. We feel like we have a very talented group of young players that are only going to continue to get better. We're hopeful Choo will continue to be a part of that.

"Ultimately, we'll have the ability to sit down and talk through the entirety of the situation with Choo, and what's important to him. We can share our thoughts on where we see the organization and where Choo sees things. Hopefully he's as positive about things as we are.

"I know from my personal conversations with Choo, both throughout the course of the season and at the end of the season, he's very positive about the talent that we have in the organization and excited about the coming years."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.