Pirates get 1B Ji-Man Choi in trade with Rays

November 10th, 2022

The Pirates entered this offseason with one glaring void to fill: first base. Less than one week into the offseason, that spot has been filled.

Pittsburgh acquired first baseman Ji-Man Choi from the Rays in exchange for Minor League right-handed pitcher Jack Hartman, the team announced on Thursday.

In 2022, Choi hit .233/.341/.388 with 11 home runs and a 115 wRC+. Choi made strides as a defender as well, worth a career-best two outs above average across 792 2/3 innings at first base. In his seven-year career, Choi is a lifetime .239/.345/.429 hitter with a 116 wRC+.

Choi stands to be Pittsburgh’s 2023 Opening Day starter at first base, a position where the Pirates lacked offensive production.

Last season, Pittsburgh rolled out 10 first basemen: Michael Chavis, Yoshi Tsutsugo, Daniel Vogelbach, Josh VanMeter, Zack Collins, Ben Gamel, Bligh Madris, Kevin Padlo, Diego Castillo and Yu Chang. That group combined to hit .206/.264/.337 with 17 home runs and a .601 OPS in games that they started at first base. By the end of the season, the Pirates did not have a primary first baseman on their active roster.

“First base was obviously a spot that we saw a lot of different guys at this year, and we need to get more offensive production out of that,” said general manager Ben Cherington in his end-of-season media availability.

Choi, Castillo and Miguel Andújar are the only position players on the 40-man roster who have spent time at first base in the Majors, though Castillo and Andújar have only spent a combined 49 1/3 innings at the position.

Ji-Man Choi’s leaping catch
Sep 29, 2022 · 0:18
Ji-Man Choi’s leaping catch
Choi’s tenure with the Pirates may only last one year as he is set to become a free agent in 2024, but the 31-year-old could serve as a bridge to the future as 1B/3B Malcom Nunez, the Pirates’ No. 12 prospect per MLB Pipeline who could be added to the 40-man roster this offseason, makes his way through the farm system.

Along with the acquisition of Choi, the Pirates reinstated outfielder Canaan Smith-Njigba and right-handers Colin Holderman, Yerry De Los Santos, Blake Cederlind and Max Koranic from the 60-day injured list.

Additionally, Cederlind, right-hander Peter Solomon, right-hander Beau Sulser, catcher Jason Delay, lefty Eric Stout and catcher/first baseman Zack Collins have been removed from the 40-man roster, cleared waivers and outrighted to Triple-A Indianapolis. Stout and Collins have become free agents. The 40-man roster stands at 40.