The Milwaukee Brewers are enjoying a day off, but an interesting report has still surfaced regarding our local nine:
Reports say 1B Ji-Man Choi has been called up to the Brewers again. His side had asked for a trade to a team that would play him more in the big leagues. #Brewershttps://t.co/rAp7xP1KQ1— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) May 31, 2018
That Ji-Man Choi is returning to the big league is returning to the big leagues isn’t all that notable by itself, given that he’s already had two stints with the MLB club this season. What is interesting is that according to the Korean report from Naver Sports, this call-up is coming in response to a trade request submitted by Choi and his camp.
Choi signed a minor league deal over the offseason that included a May 15th opt-out date if he was not added to the major league roster. That opt out date was voided on Opening Day however, when Milwaukee purchased his contract and added him to the 40 man and 25 man rosters. Choi had a memorable double in Milwaukee’s extra-innings win, but was sent down on optional assignment following the game. He didn’t return to the big leagues until May 18th, and he appeared in five games during his second stint before getting sent back down to AAA once again. In 17 MLB plate appearances covering six games with Milwaukee, Choi has slashed .267/.353/.600 with two doubles and a home run. In between big league stints, Choi has raked in Colorado Spring to the tune of a .302/.436/.488 slash with nine doubles, five homers, and more walks (32) than strikeouts (31).
Because Choi is a 0-3 years of service time player with a minor league option, once the Brewers added him to the 40 man roster they gained the ability to send him back and forth to the minor leagues as often as they see fit. Unfortunately for Choi and other 0-3 players who are technically on “major league contracts”, they only earn prorated MLB pay (in Choi’s case, an $850K base salary) for each day they spend in the major leagues. So Choi has earned something like a bit more than $27K in six days on the MLB roster this season, and has been paid according to the minor league wage scale governing 40 man roster players during his time in AAA. Per the report, Choi requested a trade away from Milwaukee and to a team with a greater opportunity for MLB playing time. Given the roster circumstances and his level of play this season, the request would certainly be justified. That is, if it was indeed made at all:
A Ji-Man Choi call-up may well be in the offing with the DH in play all weekend and RHPs going for White Sox on Saturday/Sunday.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) May 31, 2018
But there has been no trade request and no grumbling about playing time, I’m told. So that part of the report is inaccurate. https://t.co/dfm2BFWzBw
So we have some simultaneous and contradictory reports floating around on opposite ends of the globe regarding the root of the rumored call-up, but the fact of the matter is that it has indeed been tough sledding for the left-handed hitting Choi to find regular MLB at-bats with Milwaukee. He entered the year fourth on the depth chart at first base, although a thumb injury has knocked Eric Thames out of the picture for the last several weeks, and Ryan Braun has been injured himself and has had to cover left field on most days when he has been in there. Jesus Aguilar, meanwhile, has stepped up so far this season to the tune of a .307/.377/.555 slash with nine dingers in 159 plate appearances while serving as the mostly regular first baseman in Thames’ absence.
In the grand scheme of things, the timing does make overall sense for Choi to return to the active roster. Milwaukee will play their next five games on the road against American League teams in Chicago and Cleveland, which means that DH at-bats will be available. But because Choi was optioned back to the minors on less than 10 days ago, there would need to be either a disabled list or bereavement/paternity list move in order for him to be eligible to return. Including today, though, the Brewers have three off days in the span of eight days. Zach Davies complained that he was still experiencing soreness in his shoulder after his most recent start (his second since return from the DL), so now could be an opportune time to put him back on the shelf, go without a fifth starter and juggle the rotation to keep everyone on regular rest. That’s all just my own speculation, of course.
There has not yet been indication or confirmation of any coming transactions by the club, but with today’s off day there is little motivation for the front office to execute anything officially until closer to tomorrow night’s 7:10 PM first pitch. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference