Pirates win Choi's arbitration case (source)

February 19th, 2023

BRADENTON, Fla. -- First baseman Ji-Man Choi has lost his arbitration case against the Pirates and will make $4.65 million this season, per a source.

Choi, whom the Bucs acquired from the Rays via trade in November, filed at $5.4 million, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.

Choi, 31, was originally slated to play for Korea in the World Baseball Classic, but the Pirates elected to withhold him from the tournament as he recovers from minor right elbow surgery this offseason.

On Sunday, Choi that he has no hard feelings about losing his arbitration case and being withheld from the World Baseball Classic.

“I want to focus on the team right now and want to build a relationship here with the players here,” Choi said through Pirates scout Joon Hoon Na. “I want to focus on the present.”

Choi told reporters on Sunday that he has no restrictions on his elbow and had been taking live batting practice before arriving in Bradenton. 

General manager Ben Cherington spoke at Grapefruit League Media Day on Thursday about the decision to withhold Choi from the World Baseball Classic.

“As we get closer to the season, we anticipate he's going to be fine,” Cherington said. “We've had staff visit him in Arizona off and on throughout the winter. He's on the right track. But his offseason was different than they had been in the past. And, yes, that was part of the conversation about the WBC.

“At the time those decisions were made, it wasn't clear that he was going to be fully ready to participate in a way that you'd want a player to be. So we had some concern about that and had a conversation with him. But we anticipate that where he is now, he'll be fully ready by the time we get ready to play this season.”

Added manager Derek Shelton: “In our mind, we thought it was best for the Pirates with where he was at health-wise. We have to make sure we get ready for the season. ... Don’t really feel that it’ll be an issue at all.”

In 2022, Choi slashed .233/.341/.388 with 11 home runs and a 116 wRC+ across 113 games. He will split responsibilities at first base with Carlos Santana, who signed a one-year deal with the Pirates this offseason.

The Bucs reached agreements on one-year deals with their other five arbitration-eligible players -- Mitch Keller, JT Brubaker, Robert Stephenson, Miguel Andújar and Duane Underwood Jr.