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S. Korean star outfielder Choo joins Rangers

ARLINGTON, United States -- South Korean outfielder Choo Shin-Soo, among the most prized free agents this year, has signed a seven-year contract worth US$130 million with Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers, the club announced Friday.

The 31-year-old Asian star signed the largest free agent deal in Rangers history, surpassed only by the team's 10-year deal worth US$252 million to Alex Rodriguez in December of 2000.

“Today is a very special day,” Choo said. “Thirteen years ago, I was 18. A kid. I didn't know anything. Just came here, just playing baseball, really working hard.

“Today is my dream come true. My next dream is to win a World Series ring.”

Choo's average annual salary of US$18.5 million ranks eighth among all major league outfielders. He will be paid $14 million for two years, US$21 million for the two years after that and US$20 million in each of the deal's last three years.

For that money, Choo will be expected to set up runs for the Rangers new slugger, Prince Fielder, and provide offensive support for a Rangers pitching rotation that includes Japanese ace Yu Darvish.

“I was looking for a winning team,” Choo said of his decision to join the Rangers. “That's the most important thing for myself and my baseball career.”

Choo has averaged .288 over nine North American seasons with Seattle, Cleveland and Cincinnati with 104 home runs and 427 runs batted in.

“We use the term 'good fit' a lot when we're looking at players to add in,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “I think in this case it was the perfect fit.

“His skill set, his personality, his personal goals and desires really line up perfectly with us and what our club needed. He has really been one of the most productive offensive players in the game for a period of time. He's extremely driven and really a perfect fit for what we're doing.”

Last season for the Cincinnati Reds, Choo was the leadoff hitter and batted .285 with 21 homers, 54 runs batted in and 20 stolen bases as well being among the top five players in the league with 107 runs scored and a career-best .423 on-base percentage.

The Reds offered him only a one-year deal worth US$14.1 million, which he rejected in favor of free agency.

Instead, Choo inked the third-best free agent deal of the off-season, trailing only second baseman Robinson Cano's 10-year contract for US$240 million with Seattle and the seven-year deal for US$153 million that the New York Yankees gave outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

Rangers manager Ron Washington said Choo will be a regular in left field but could see time in the other outfield positions as well.

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Shin-Soo Choo, center, poses with his family, from left to right, Won Mi Ha, Moo-bin Choo, and Kunwoo Choo for photographers during the press conference introducing Choo at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, Texas on Friday, Dec. 27. (AFP)

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