Over the weekend Jon Heyman reported Korean third baseman Jeong Choi intends to make the jump to MLB in 2015. Choi will be 28 next season and has played in parts of 11 seasons, including this year, in South Korea's major league.
It's hard to know how his talents would translate to the MLB, but he's a career .291 hitter with 154 home runs. That average is actually a little deceptive as he's hit well over .300 for the last four years. He's also hit more home runs later in his career. On the negative side, his strike outs have also steadily risen for several years. As it gets closer to winter, scouting reports will start to surface and we'll have a better idea of what his skill set really is.
Choi could be entering the market at a financially inopportune time as it appears third base could be rather robust next off season. Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval, and Hanley Ramirez all figure to enter free agency then. However, it is likely those players would receive qualifying offers which could Choi that much more desirable. I have no idea what kind of salary he might demand so I'll not even hazard a guess.
In addition to those free agents, Aramis Ramirez could also be on the market as the Brewers have a mutual option on him. Here's where things get interesting for us. Ramirez is almost certainly not going to turn down his side of the $14 million contract. If he did the Brewers would probably extend a qualifying offer and that would substantially quell interest in the aged third baseman. Were the Brewers to decline the option they'd owe him a $4 million dollar buyout which would be deferred to a later date.
That's a lot of money for a team like the Brewers, but they also don't have much going in the minors at that position. Something tells me Jason Rogers, Taylor Green, and Nick Delmonico are not going to factor in there long term. If Mark Attanasio is truly serious about building a perennial contender, he and Doug Melvin are going to have to address third base going forward.
Financially the Brewers may find themselves in a good position to make a splash in free agency. As I already noted Ramirez's salary could come off the books next year. That's $10 million shed. Rickie Weeks will almost certainly be gone and that's another $11 million. Tom Gorzelanny, Francisco Rodriguez, Lyle Overbay, and Mark Reynolds will also become free agents. Their total salaries come to approximately $10 million. Yovani Gallardo's contract includes a team option, but I expect the Brewers to pick it up. There are several players who are due raises and a few will hit arbitration for the first time next year. Even factoring that in, depending on what happens with Ramirez, the Brewers could have well over $20 million to spend with first and third bases likely being the only major holes to fill.
In the last few years the Brewers have made a concerted effort to increase their international presence. Last year they signed two international prospects to the largest contracts for that type of player in franchise history. Early reports have the Brewers tied to one of this year's top international prospects Gilbert Lara. Even though they lost out to the White Sox, Brewers were reportedly one of several teams to make a substantial offer to early season superstar Jose Abreu. Signing Jeong Choi might just fit into their current philosophy.
Tons of things can happen between now and the end of the season so it's way too early to talk about 2015 roster construction. However the Brewers may find themselves with the need, the desire, and the funds to make a legitimate run at a guy like Choi. Therefore it's something we should be aware of so just file this under "off season conversation starters" and come back to it in December if that's your thing.