The Pirates acquired Ji-Man Choi from the Rays in a trade yesterday, slotting him in as their first baseman for 2023. Ben Cherington, the general manager of Choi’s new club, passed along some information about Choi’s health to reporters today. Per Justice delos Santos of MLB.com, Choi will undergo a minor procedure for his right elbow in Korea but is expected to be recovered in time for Spring Training. “Based on the total information we have, we feel good about him going into next year,” Cherington said, per Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic.
delos Santos notes that Choi dealt with an elbow injury during the 2022 season, which was back towards the beginning of the year. He was placed on the IL on May 1, retroactive to April 28, due to loose bodies in his right elbow. He was able to return after a minimum stay on May 8 and avoided the IL for the remainder of the year.
Though Cherington didn’t provide many details, if the procedure is related to loose bodies, it’s likely not a huge concern. Alex Bregman underwent a procedure to remove loose bodies from his elbow in January of 2019 and was still expected to be ready by Opening Day. That indeed came to pass, as Bregman didn’t miss any time in the regular season, getting into 156 games, and went on to have an excellent campaign. Each player and individual injury are unique, of course, but if Choi’s case is at all similar to Bregman’s, he has plenty of lead time to get healthy before next year.
Overall, he hit .233/.341/.388 in 2022 for a wRC+ of 115. He was much better prior to the IL stint, hitting .357/.491/.595 against a .217/.320/.360 line afterwards. It’s possible the arrival of the elbow issues had an impact, though that pre-IL line is just a 15-game sample and the latter section is still above average, producing a wRC+ of 101.
If the procedure helps Choi’s production take a step forward in 2023, the Pirates would surely welcome it. They are not expected to be competitive next year due to their ongoing rebuild and will likely be looking to trade Choi at the deadline since he’s an impending free agent. If he can come back from the offseason with any kind of improvement, it could help them to scoop up an interesting prospect or two when July rolls around.