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After whirlwind day, Rays' Choi Ji-man stays put, for now

All News 15:11 August 02, 2022

By Yoo Jee-ho

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) -- With the annual trade deadline in the majors fast approaching, the Tampa Bay Rays' South Korean first baseman Choi Ji-man remained with the club at least for another day.

Choi had found himself in trade speculation over the weekend, with a report out of Houston claiming that the Rays and the Houston Astros had discussed a deal involving Choi and Astros right-hander Jose Urquidy.

In this USA Today Sports photo via Reuters, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays hits an RBI single against the Cleveland Guardians during the bottom of the first inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, on July 29, 2022. (Yonhap)

In this USA Today Sports photo via Reuters, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays hits an RBI single against the Cleveland Guardians during the bottom of the first inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, on July 29, 2022. (Yonhap)

The Astros were seeking help at first base, with the incumbent Yuli Gurriel, the reigning American League (AL) batting champion, unable to get out of his seasonlong funk. Since the Rays have a surplus of options at first base, Choi, who offers strong on-base skills, decent power and solid defense, seemed to be just the type of player that the Astros could have plucked away from Tampa.

The Astros did make a deal with the Rays on Monday (U.S. local time) but neither Choi nor Urquidy was on the move.

In a three-team trade, the Astros acquired first baseman/outfielder Trey Mancini from the Baltimore Orioles, along with right-hander Jayden Murray from the Rays. The Astros sent outfielder Jose Siri to the Rays, and right-hander Chayce McDermott to the Orioles, who also got right-hander Seth Johnson from the Rays.

The trade deadline falls at 6 p.m. Tuesday (Eastern Time), or 7 a.m. Wednesday in South Korea.

While the Astros may no longer be interested in Choi, the fact that the Rays reportedly entertained dealing away Choi means he may still be moved.

In this Associated Press photo, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after hitting a sacrifice fly against the Cleveland Guardians during the bottom of the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, on July 31, 2022. (Yonhap)

In this Associated Press photo, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts after hitting a sacrifice fly against the Cleveland Guardians during the bottom of the fourth inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, on July 31, 2022. (Yonhap)

Choi has bounced back nicely this year after an injury-plagued 2021 campaign. With 46 RBIs through 75 games, Choi has already topped his RBI total from a year ago in 83 games.

Despite being platooned against left-handed pitchers, Choi ranks second on the team in RBIs, one behind Randy Arozarena, who has played in 23 more games than Choi. The South Korean also ranks second among Tampa Bay hitters with 40 walks and third with eight home runs. He is batting .257/.355/.415, with his batting average and on-base percentage slightly better than his career marks.

Choi won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2023 season, meaning that whichever team acquires Choi at the deadline will have him under control for 1 1/2 seasons and, potentially, two full postseasons.

Choi has a career .238/.407/.444 line in 27 postseason games, with four home runs, six RBIs and 17 walks. In 2020, Choi became the first South Korean position player to appear in the World Series, as the Rays lost to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

In this Associated Press photo, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays advances to third base on a single by Luke Raley against Baltimore Orioles during the top of the first inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore on July 28, 2022. (Yonhap)

In this Associated Press photo, Choi Ji-man of the Tampa Bay Rays advances to third base on a single by Luke Raley against Baltimore Orioles during the top of the first inning of a Major League Baseball regular season game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore on July 28, 2022. (Yonhap)

jeeho@yna.co.kr
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