Pirates Acquire Ji-Man Choi from Rays for Jack Hartman

According to reports out of Korea and confirmed by Marc Tompkins who covers the Tampa Bay Rays, the Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired veteran first baseman Ji-Man Choi.

The Pirates have confirmed the deal and announced that they have sent minor league pitcher Jack Hartman to Tampa in the deal. The 31-year-old Choi has one year left before free agency. He batted .233/.341/.388 in 113 games in 2022, collecting 22 doubles and 11 homers. In seven seasons, he has a career .239/.345/.429 slash line. Baseball-Reference has him as a below average defender every season during his career, but the offense has carried him to 5.2 WAR in that time. His 1.2 WAR in 2022 is the second best mark of his career, only topped by the 2.1 he put up in 2019. Those are the only two seasons that he has played at least 100 games.

Hartman was a 2020 fourth round draft pick, who needed Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2021. At 24 years old, he made 22 appearances this season for Low-A Bradenton, where he had a 6.27 ERA in 18.2 innings, with 16 walks, 19 strikeouts and a 2.04 WHIP. He showed excellent velocity, so there is some potential.

John started working at Pirates Prospects in 2009, but his connection to the Pittsburgh Pirates started exactly 100 years earlier when Dots Miller debuted for the 1909 World Series champions. John was born in Kearny, NJ, two blocks from the house where Dots Miller grew up. From that hometown hero connection came a love of Pirates history, as well as the sport of baseball.

When he didn't make it as a lefty pitcher with an 80+ MPH fastball and a slider that needed work, John turned to covering the game, eventually focusing in on the prospects side, where his interest was pushed by the big league team being below .500 for so long. John has covered the minors in some form since the 2002 season, and leads the draft and international coverage on Pirates Prospects. He writes daily on Pittsburgh Baseball History, when he's not covering the entire system daily throughout the entire year on Pirates Prospects.

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jaygray007

Between 1b and DH, given that they already have Choi, they now need to come up with a guy who can hit lefties and a guy who can hit vs everyone.

I wonder if a Justin Turner would sign as that everyday guy and can move between dh 1b and even 3b occasionally.

Something like this has appeal to me… total payroll would be in the 75 mil range… toss 10 at another sp to get to 85.
Lf – haniger, (~10 mil)
Cf- Reynolds
Rf – suwinski
3b – Hayes
Ss – cruz
2b – castro/bae
1b – choi/ idk, Myers? (5 mil each)
Dh – Turner (no idea. 10 mil?)
C – Perez Endy Davis

john.benedict

Drek you concerned at all about his yoshie like 2nd half?
29-174 .166 w/ 10 XBH

Moreso Aug-Sept 12-91 .131 w/ 4 RBI’s

I know he’s just a trade chip, lets hope he can repeat 2022 first half

jaygray007

Choi has a track record of above average offense. I dont think we should read too much into that IMO

john.benedict

Choi also has an above average track record of 6 DFA’s
Only follow bucs and rays, choi on base, clutch hits

BA drops 60 points, OBP 50 and slugging 100
Choi couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat
FOR 90 DAYS AS A PLATOON
Thought for sure it was DFA #7

jaygray007

Need to get a guy who can mash lefties now. I wonder if a Longoria would be open to 1b. Other guys with some history of hitting lefties hard at first glance at 1b include Sano and Myers.

Committing to a platoon at 1b kinda makes it difficult to platoon DH. Hopefully this means a legit DH is in the cards. I have a gut feeling about JD Martinez.

1979andCounting

Hey this is an upgrade for sure! Choi is due about $4.5 mil in last year of arb. He’s going to want to put up some numbers as he goes into FA next year. This also mirrors Ben’s last press conference that he wants to increase OBP and Choo has very good plate discipline.

To jschwartz: how many dozen times are you going to post Andujar is going to play 1B? He’s NOT. He’s never played one inning there. Stop.

James_Robert5

At one point last year, I thought Jack Hartman had the most interesting fastball in the organization
I can’t wait to see what he does with TB

TNBucs

The most surprising thing about this trade is that Cherington was willing to trade one of his first draftees. OTOH, most of the prospects who were here when he arrived require a 40-man spot if they have much potential and I’m sure TB is facing a 40-man roster crunch leading up to the Rule 5 Draft.

b mcferren

good korean restaurant by the giant eagle on center avenue btw…

AdministrativeSky236

Whats it called?

AdministrativeSky236

Will have to give it a try!

The Gunner

IMHO, the short of the Choi acquisition is this…………

Choi is nothing more than a placeholder – he’ll be here until the trade deadline. Or, if he really stinks the joint out and there is no trade market for him, he’ll be DFA’d in early August.

Sounds pretty similar to Yoshi 2.0 to me – let’s hope Choi’s Pirate slash is a lot better than .171/.249/.478 or .187/,266/.640.

Anthony

Choi has a much longer and consistent track record than Yoshi. I was pretty disappointed when I heard about this trade, but after looking at his numbers, and the fact that he a nagging right elbow injury last year, I think he can be a very productive platoon option for 1B and DH. If I remember correctly, he has pull-side power, so that should play well at PNC.

The Gunner

Choi definitely has a decent MLB track record, that cannot be denied. His poor 2nd half in 2022 is a bit concerning. Hopefully, he can bounce back and be flipped for a prospect at the trade deadline.

Last edited 2 months ago by The Gunner
john_fluharty

Any chance you’re the same Gunner that was at only bucks?

The Gunner

No, that’s not me, John.

adicesa14

Oh no! Another poor fielding, light hitting, cheap (?) 1Baseman and of course he hits left-handed.. They’re scaring me.

Last edited 2 months ago by adicesa14
adicesa14

I’ve been thinking about this since my earlier post. It’s true that Mr. Choi is likely another weak hitting, poor fielding, left-handed hitting ‘part-time’ first baseman, but perhaps he’s a hedge against failure to sign a more robust candidate. I realize this is suggesting the Pirates are playing ‘three-dimensional chess,’ but “hope springs eternal.”

HeyFred

IIRC, his last at bat with the brewers was a grand salami, then dfa’ed. Brother hangs around after that kind of treatment (and seeing him play he looks like an affable ballplayer), I say slide over two spaces for the big man on the bench.

b mcferren

I am assuming this happened because Shelton vouched for him as former TB hitting coach…

RAS TN

So they claimed Sulser less than a month ago just so they could dump him again???

Seriously, who does this and why should anyone believe in the person doing this???

battlingbucs

Plenty to criticize this group for but this isn’t one of them. This happens somewhat regularly in the off-season. The team likes a guy but doesn’t think he’s worth a 40 man spot so they claim him only to waive him later in hopes of sneaking him through and being able to keep him in the org.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

It’s a very very very typical thing that happens. Especially in off-season.

RAS TN

The next thing we will find out is that they have signed Kiermier, who can’t hit his way out of a wet paper bag…

skliesen

.388 slugging from a mediocre defensive, no speed, 1B isn’t anything to get excited about. Hopefully the short porch at PNC will help him bolster this number up to at least his career average number.

Definitely a platoon player, too. But at least he’s a legitimate MLB player with a track record of some Leo of success. A step in right direction.

Anthony

If Choi had SLG, he would have cost a heck of a lot more than a former 4th round pick. He’s an above average hitter, sports a consistently high BB-rate, and has pull-side power, which should play at PNC.

He’s a platoon player for sure, but I like what he brings to this lineup from a complementary point of view. They need more guys like him that can get on base to balance this lineup out.

When I first heard the trade news, I was extremely disappointed and underwhelmed. Then after having a chance to look at his numbers, I think this was a solid acquisition with some potential upside due to health and park factors.

Last edited 2 months ago by Anthony
skliesen

Agreed.
Hopefully the surgery to shore up his elbow will help him regain his power stroke. I am much more optimistic of his ability to help the team be more competitive out the gate than last season.

jschwartz

Yeah, it fills a hole that needed filling for at least the next year. They’ll have to have someone to face lefties…maybe Andújar gets some reps in there? Though, he’s a much better outfielder than infielder.

RAS TN

It’s wonderful that the Pirates keep helping other teams with their 40-man roster decisions…Keep up the good work BC keep adding to the land of misfits players…

PiratePrimate

More like the land of misfit owner and his inept front office

postal911

Well this is a sign of what kind of off season we are looking at. Instead of going after decent 1b free agents, we dumpster dive for a guy that has hit .230sh the last 3 seasons. That’s not going to help this pathetic offense. Hopefully he can be more productive than 2022.

Last edited 2 months ago by postal911
SBRO

Here are your free agent 1Bs:

Abreu 3.9
Rizzo 2.4
Bell 2.0
======
Choi 1.3 (as a platoon player)
======
Santana 1.0
Mancini 0.9
Belt 0.0
Sano < 0
Gurriel < 0

Of course I’d love to have Abreu or Rizzo on the Pirates, but those guys are commanding $16M – $20M salaries on likely multi-year deals – probably out of the Pirates’ price range. Choi’s not a terrible consolation prize, particularly if they can pair him with a righty platoon mate.

And to contextualize this, the Pirates were 3 wins below replacement at 1B this year. Choi alone would be a 4+ win improvement.

Cocktailsfor2

I hope to never see that S.O.B. Rizzo again as long as I live…

54D671B6-334A-471B-A0C7-CA56BBD24692.jpeg
postal911

It’s an upgrade which isn’t saying much. I would roll the dice on a younger player with upside like Mancini , Sano or just wait out the market to see what players get released. Choi at age 31 had a .730 ops vs rh, k rate, walk rate and iso all career worst in 2022. Sure it’s an upgrade but he has become a .230 hitter that ks more than once per game. His best skill is obp but are we going to put another slow guy at leadoff to utilize his only skill? We need to be making moves to build the team for the future and stop getting bridge players that just clog a roster spot.

Anthony

Not sure why you’re referencing batting average and OPS, which is weighted to SLG despite being almost 2x less valuable. Choi is definitely a platoon guy, but he is relatively cheap, can get on base, was battling an elbow injury last year, and has pull-side power. This is not a bad pickup, and you will ALWAYS need bridge players.

Last edited 2 months ago by Anthony
SBRO

Mancini will be 31 by opening day next year and he’s coming off a worse season than Choi. I know he just feels like a Pirates kinda guy, but I’m staying away.

I wouldn’t be against rolling the dice on Sano as a 1B/DH on a one-year deal, but he’s definitely higher risk and I’d want a solid Plan B. Coming off a lost season, with clunkers in ’18 and ’20 sandwiched around a great ’19 and a decent ’21. If you know what he’s going to look like next year you’re a lot more clear-eyed than me.

Honestly, none of the available 1B is going to be a fixture into the middle of the decade – the future of the position is probably/hopefully someone like Nuñez, Tank Davis or Gorski, if we’re lucky and any (or more than one) works out. 2023 is a stopgap.

roberto

The two wild cards are internal: Castro and Davis.

James_Robert5

Great post!

This one would get my vote for the Post of the Year!

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

I’d have gone Mancini, cause he was a positive 1B in the short amount of time he spent there. His OF defense dragged him down as he was getting 1B starts over Mountcastle

jschwartz

If the Pirates were ready to compete I’d agree about Mancini. But, they’re still 1-2 years away and are going to be figuring out who’s playing where, along with what these prospects really are as players, this next year. So, Choi makes sense as a platoon bat. You have to figure that they’ll give Andújar some at bats against lefties at first. And, though he’s much better defensively in the outfield, some current innings at 1st can’t hurt.

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

As a bridge move, it’s at least better than the avenue they had been taking. He has generally been over at least 1 fWAR which is a HUGE upgrade for them. Baby steps lol

MB21

Normally, I’d say “Meh.” He is a lot better than a black hole, however. At least he has a decent rate of getting on base.

TNBucs

I wonder if this followed from one of those “productive conversations” that Ben had at the trade deadline.

1979andCounting

I’m reading the opportunity came up only this week at the GM meetings. But yeah, let’s keep tracking if any roster moves at all come from last summer conversations……..

SBRO

This felt like a move they might make. I doubt it’s the ONLY move they’ll make to address 1B – he’s got a pretty dreadful career platoon split (125 wRC+ vs RHP//69 vs LHP) and the Rays all but buried him in 6 feet of concrete to avoid having to bat him against lefties.

I don’t haaaate it. All in all an above average bat, a little lumbering on the basepaths and averageish defense. Probably won’t save too many of Cruz’s wild throws, but won’t make you miss Bell or Moran. Get him a platoon partner who can maybe pick it and you might have an average Frankenfirstbaseman.

john.benedict

Choi has displayed STRONG glove work last two years (5 E’s in 1400 inn)
Range? Terrible but again leather snatches most chances hit or thrown
C and C plus whoever spells Hayes will send wildness he’s never seen
When compared to yoshie and company, might look like Mike Schmidt
AFA platoon partner, anyone on this roster including Castro could handle
especially if TANKING is on their minds

chuck_conner

My coin representative name is John Benedict. When I saw your name in my email, I said Pirates Prospect is mixed up with my coin man. Small world
I think the bucco’s have a nice look at,1st base with the lefty we got from.TB. I Believe with some of the outfielders, and minor league we should be able to get a good one. We got a good power hitting 1st baseman from St. Louis and the long ball doesn’t affect his plate discipline. This year I would like to have a starting pitcher with experience to help the young staff. Fix up the bullpen and getting a hitting coach. It’s to late to get rid of the stiff the manages the team. He must come cheap.

john.benedict

Would be kind of them to show us their trying to win more games
however its just not important to them
MOST important is locking up Endy Rod for !5 years
He’s a once in 25 year kid, write that down my friend

chuck_conner

As long as this ownership remains, the Pirates will not enter the free agency pool.

leefieux

Maybe Chavis? (He says, ducking).

leefieux

Skliesen….you don’t like Chavis? I was joking, but I’m hurt now. 🙂

SBRO

Carlos Santana. He has a good glove despite getting up there in years, and a 134 wRC+ against lefties. He’s basically a right handed platoon player now despite being a switch hitter. I think Santana can be had for a couple million now. KC had to eat most of his contract when they shipped him to Seattle, he’ll be 37, and he can’t hit righties. I’m not sure how many major league offers he gets. I think he’d be a really good complement for Choi.

jschwartz

Maybe. But, they may also want to see if Andújar can improve at 1B defensively. We all know that he can hit, but at this time there’s not really a position for him. His advanced stats say that he’s an above average corner outfielder. But, platooning him some at first this season couldn’t hurt.

I guess we’ll see. Regardless, Choi is a solid platoon option that will probably increase his power numbers a bit at PNC.

Wilbur Miller

One thing in Choi’s favor — To be a major upgrade over what they had in 2022, he just has to slightly better than a dead squirrel.

leefieux

What do you have against dead squirrels?

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

You can’t find their nest of nuts, cause a dead squirrel ain’t grabbing nuts.

leefieux

Did a live squirrel ever grab your nuts?

Bucs'N'Pucks (Jeff Reed)

Kent State had squirrels EVERYWHERE!!!!!

roberto

I had a dead squirrel take out my internet. That the live ones can’t grab all the acorns from four mature oaks is not news.

b mcferren

thumbs down

if they were going with a left hander who doesn”t know how to play first, they could have just stayed with Blight Madris

this move stinks

jschwartz

C’mon…Madris was always a very mid level prospect. And, he’s struggled at 1B. I think that they’re going to give Andújar as many at bats as possible since he’s a proven MLB bar. But, we know he’s horrible at third, and though a good defensive outfielder, we most likely will have a glutton of guys to fill those positions. So, I’m betting that they give him some time at 1B to see if he’s adequate. He can definitely learn the position while spelling Choi against lefties.

leefieux

Seriously? Madris was terrible at the plate. We have pitchers who can hit for an OPS+ of 44.

Scam likely

Well wonder how much he is making, .

leefieux

Third year arb eligible, so he’s sure to get traded in July, no matter how cheap he is.

jschwartz

If he is I won’t be complaining. I’m seeing estimates of 4mil something. He’s only here for one year anyway. I’m sure once the other positions are figured out…there are going to be a lot of young guys pushing for spots… They’ll either give an internal prospect a try in 2024, or grab a Mancini type.

I think most of the 1B options we have are righties, correct? Andújar is. Anyway, it’s a low cost trade for a proven payoff performer and winner…those things are invaluable with young clubs. If we do trade him at the deadline it’ll probably be for more than we have up. I really like this move

leefieux

Andujar sounds like a good RH platoon bat at 1b, at least to me.

AdministrativeSky236

Honestly pretty happy with this. Better than anything from last year

jschwartz

I’m with you. It gives us a 1 year stop gap since this upcoming year is going to be all about the “kids” and their development. It also leaves room for one of our RH guys to learn 1B (Andújar?). And, the guy’s a proven winner and playoff performer. Having a player with that experience is a huge benefit to a team that WILL struggle this season.

Also, he actually hit pretty well last season against lefties. No power against them, but his OPS was well over 700. He may not be just a platoon guy.

skliesen

A very low bar.

Mtgj

This seems like a pretty solid move , but as soon as I think about getting excited Aki iwamura enters my head.
This move seems way to similar to that one.

Cocktailsfor2

Just when I had finally forgotten that name…

Last edited 2 months ago by Cocktailsfor2
jschwartz

Lol. That’s painful to think of. But, this makes sense. He may have figured out how to approach lefties last year, though not for power. Without any homeruns he still produced a 700 something OPS against them. So, he’ll most likely see a career high in plate appearances this year at first and DH.

And, he’s so much different from other guys this regime has gone after. He’s an absolute playoff performer and winner. He did rack up +2 defensive runs saved last year also. So, maybe figuring out the defensive side and lefties?

I’m actually excited for this one. Shelton doesn’t seem to promote a winning environment, but Choi is a winner. I think that’ll be pretty important. And, is love to see Andújar get some 1B reps. He sucks at third, is a good corner OFer, but him figuring out 1st would be amazing for the organization.

HeyFred

ouch…nice pull.

TNBucs

A side benefit might be Choi serving as a mentor to Bae.

jschwartz

Yep! The biggest benefit of all. He’ll work with others in regards to teaching the position too. I’m hoping that helps guys like Andújar and whatever other righty they throw out there.

Also, I don’t think the prayers wanted a guy who’s everyday. This leaves open a ton of opportunities for the young guys who will be here through 2025 when we start competing. Honestly, I hope the rest of the FA money goes to the pitching staff and a catcher… And that’s it.

leefieux

Everything I’ve read about him is that he is a good guy on the clubhouse.

jschwartz

Yeah. The players and fans all seem to love him. BlueJay fans are all saying how glad they are that he’s going to the NL because of how he steps up in big situations. That said something too

AdministrativeSky236

Hes been there and done that for the rays, if he can help build a better culture here then im even happier

forkball

Let’s hope that’s not the only candidate at 1B

jschwartz

The guy seemed to figure out lefties last year. And, if rather internal guys take the opportunity to learn the position. Andújar is a great option with huge upside. I wouldn’t want to block our own players just to add another veteran 1B. Let’s see who can learn the position and run with it for the future.

And, if no one… Then you know that you need to do bigger with someone next off-season…🤷🏻‍♂️

JimEastTennessee

Want him to absolutely rake until July…

agent00

unexpected but I like it. an actual 1b

PirateRican21

I mentioned his named after reading in MLBtrade rumors that he might be dumped by the Rays, and they did dumped him! The brewers might dumped Tellez, and would had preferred him, but I’m good with Choi until Nunez or Gorski or Davis is ready!

jschwartz

I think we add Andújar in there. He may SUCK defensively at 3rd, but there’s rain to believe he could be a decent 1B with some of his limited starts. His athleticism plays well in the corner OF positions so he should be able to be an above average 1st baseman in theory. Without having to look up anything…which side do Nuñez and Gorski hit from. Is Nuñez a righty?

PirateRican21

Yes Nuñez is a right handed hitter. Slow footed, questionable glove, good bat!

jschwartz

I saw that he was pretty slow. But, in videos I’ve seen of him he seemed fairly smooth. I haven’t really looked at any advanced defensive metrics though. But, he sounds more like a DH with spot 1B duties.

Honestly, I’m hoping that Andújar grabs the position and just runs with it. His bat plays well and he’s a very good athlete. Again, terrible at third, but third is a weird position. I was always a very good middle infielder but was terrible at third myself lol.

jschwartz

Nevermind, looked it up. I see that all of our 1st base prospects are righties… So, this trade absolutely makes sense.

robertkasperski

You think Gorski gets a crack by midseason??

PirateRican21

Mid season? he needs to prove that it wasn’t an outlier, and the injury rob him of further upper level experience…..would be surprised if he does. And if he does I prefer him in the outfield!

robertkasperski

Story has it that he is moving to 1b in spring training, at least a lot of reps. If he were to stay healthy and keep hitting the cover off of the ball, I could see him get moved up and hit against lefties in a platoon with Choi to get his feet wet if he handles a the position. I know a whole lot of ifs……………..

jschwartz

I see Nuñez as the most likely to make the jump by mid season. And, yeah, there are a ton of ifs. But, there are 4 players who have the potential to be very good 1st basemen at the major league level. Andújar, Nuñez, Gorski, and Davis. All but Davis could see some platoon time there this season. All have a ton of athletic traits that should play well there too.

I’ll take the “ifs” when you just need 1 of 4 top prospects to pan out. Plus, though Termarr doesn’t really have a set position, he could see reps there too. I’m actually excited lol.

chuck_conner

Termarr is 5ft 7inch, how will he play 1st base. He’s a SS, 2B and that’s it.

roberto

Accents in your post! I’m excited.

jschwartz

🤣🤣🤣. I played independent ball and a teammate’s last name was Nuñez. So, it doesn’t look right without the ñ. And, my ex girlfriend is Venezuelan…She would always give me a hard time for Americanizing spelling lol. So, of course I’d intentionally misspell, and mispronounce, things just to annoy her. 😬 But, her constant teasing and correcting me must’ve stick.

PirateRican21

Making it about me!

87297623-1D76-40D3-BB70-188F62AE29A4.jpeg
Micky

Would much prefer Gavin Sheets from the White Sox but at least he beats Zach Collins

BuccoinTN

Could be a nice LH piece of a 1B platoon. Hits righties really well and gets on base, might as well grab a seat against righties.

TNBucs

He does have very pronounced career splits, but last year he hit lefties as well as righties. Probably just randomness.

jschwartz

Yeah, not much power against lefties last season, but he still had a 700 something OPS. To me that sounds more like he figured out how to approach them differently vs randomness.

BuccoinTN

Against lefties I meant!

robertkasperski

Platoon with Gorski by midseason??

robertkasperski

GASP!!! A real first baseman?? (now trying to decide if I am dreaming……)

Last edited 2 months ago by robertkasperski
leefieux

Career OPS+ LF 115. Our new cleanup hitter!!

roberto

Calm down. A brandy might help.

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