For the first time since 2017, the World Baseball Classic will return next month as countries from around the world will compete for the title.
The World Baseball Classic is a unique opportunity for players from not only Major League Baseball but from all over the world to represent who they are and where they come from.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are no exception to the 30 teams in the league having their players anxious to compete in the tournament.
One of the players from the Pirates who was expected to be a part of the World Baseball Classic was the club’s new first baseman/designated hitter Ji-Man Choi.
Choi, a native of Incheon, South Korea, was gearing up to represent his home country next month.
Unfortunately for Choi, the Pirates requested that Choi not suit up for South Korea, a decision that “deeply hurt” Choi, per a report from Yonhap News Agency.
While it’s easy to understand Choi’s frustration and disappointment from not being able to participate in the World Baseball Classic, the move is certainly justifiable from the Pirates’ perspective.
It was in November that the Pirates acquired Choi from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for minor league right-hander Jack Hartman.
The Pirates first substantial strike of the offseason was to acquire Choi to help fill a big need at first base in 2023.
The reason the decision from Pittsburgh’s end makes sense? Choi is currently working his way back from offseason surgery to his right elbow to help correct an injury that plagued him in 2022.
The risk of suffering a setback or re-aggravating the previous issue during the World Baseball Classic is simply too big of a risk for the Pirates to take.
Choi is a big part of the Pirates’ hope to attempt to take a step forward this coming season.
Last year, the Pirates’ first basemen to finish last in the league with a .206 batting average and a .601 OPS.
Then, there is also the financial element which always seems to get magnified when talking about a team such as the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Barring a last-minute, unexpected agreement, the Bucs appear to be heading to an arbitration hearing with Choi after the two sides were unable to come to an agreement.
At the conclusion of said hearing, Choi will either be paid his request of $5.4M or the Pittsburgh Pirates’ file of $4.65M.
While not an excessive amount of money, it is still a considerable financial commitment, especially with the current state of Pittsburgh’s payroll.
Ji-Man Choi is understandably feeling hurt by the decision from his new team, but it was a decision that needed to be made from the Pirates’ end.