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Choi Ji-man joins countryman Kim Ha-seong in San Diego following trade

By Yonhap

Published : Aug. 2, 2023 - 09:03

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San Diego Padres' official Twitter page on Wednesday, shows South Korean infielder Choi Ji-man (right), following his trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Padres. (Yonhap) San Diego Padres' official Twitter page on Wednesday, shows South Korean infielder Choi Ji-man (right), following his trade from the Pittsburgh Pirates to the Padres. (Yonhap)

South Korean infielder Choi Ji-man will join countryman Kim Ha-seong on the San Diego Padres.

The Pittsburgh Pirates traded Choi, along with pitcher Rich Hill, to the Padres on Tuesday, in exchange for three prospects: pitcher Jackson Wolf, outfielder Estuar Suero and first baseman Alfonso Rivas. The deal was made prior to the annual trade deadline of 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Choi had been teammates with South Korean infielder Bae Ji-hwan in Pittsburgh and will now join another Korean infielder in Kim.

Choi, 32, is now on his sixth major league club. He made his debut with the Los Angeles Angels in 2016, and had a cup of coffee with the New York Yankees in 2017 and the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018, before moving to the Tampa Bay Rays in a midseason trade in 2018.

That's where he established himself as a big leaguer. In 2020, the first baseman became the first South Korean position player to appear in a World Series game. He also became a fan favorite and a popular clubhouse figure for his fun-loving nature and acrobatic splits at first base to dig out low throws.

The Rays dealt Choi to the Pirates in November last year. And with Choi about to hit free agency after this year, the rebuilding Pirates shipped him out to the Padres, who have badly underachieved to a 52-55 record through Monday despite an expensive, star-studded roster. Acquiring two veterans who will both become free agents this winter indicates that the Padres, despite sitting five games out of the last National League Wild Card spot, have not abandoned their hopes of reaching the postseason.

Choi missed nearly three months of action earlier this year with an Achilles injury. He was batting only .205 with six home runs and 11 RBIs in 23 games at the time of the trade, but four of those homers have come since his return from injury on July 7.

When healthy, Choi can provide some pop from the left side of the plate and discipline at the plate.

Though he has primarily been a first baseman in his big league career, Choi is expected to serve as the designated hitter for the Padres against right-handed pitching and come off the bench against left-handers.

Kim has blossomed into one of the top middle infielders in baseball this year. He ranks third in the majors in wins above replacement by Baseball-Reference with 5.2, behind only Shohei Ohtani of the Angels and Ronald Acuna Jr. of the Atlanta Braves, and ahead of former MVPs, such as Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kim has already set career highs with 14 home runs and 21 steals, while slashing a robust .279/.374/.448 through 102 games.

He was a finalist for the NL Gold Glove at shortstop last year and is considered a favorite to win the award at second base this year. (Yonhap)