June 11: Tampa Bay is covering $2.209MM of the remaining $2.709MM remaining on Miller’s contract through season’s end, according to the Associated Press. Choi’s split contract calls for an $850K salary in the Majors and a $250K salary in the minors, and he’d be owed about $513K through season’s end if he were to spend the rest of the year in the Majors. That doesn’t seem likely to be the case, so the Rays will save a bit of money while paying Choi at his minor league rate of pay, though the overall cost-savings in the deal look to be more or less negligible, even for a cost-conscious club like Tampa Bay.
June 10: The Rays have dealt infielder Brad Miller to the Brewers for first baseman Ji-Man Choi, as announced by both teams on Twitter. Tampa will also send some cash to Milwaukee as part of the deal. Miller and Choi have each been optioned to Triple-A with their respective new organizations.
Miller was designated for assignment earlier this week, though he had hit respectably well (.256/.322/.429 with five homers) over 174 plate appearances for the Rays this season. Beyond those decent batting numbers, however, Miller brought little else to the table — he has continued his career-long struggles against left-handed pitching, and has posted below-average defensive numbers wherever he has played around the diamond. Miller is also coming off a rough 2017 campaign, so it could be that the Rays sought to sell as high as they could on him while he was still productive, in order to get at least some of his $2.79MM in remaining salary off the books.
Though Miller doesn’t bring much defensive value as a shortstop or second baseman, he can at least offer the Brew Crew some extra pop at both middle infield positions. Jonathan Villar hasn’t done much against righty pitching over the last couple of years, while defensively-gifted shortstop Orlando Arcia is suffering through a dreadful year at the plate. Miller and Arcia could form a platoon, with Arcia stepping in as a late-game defensive replacement on days when Miller starts, plus the Brewers also have veteran Eric Sogard in the bench mix.
Middle infield was a weak spot for a Brewers team that is fighting for a postseason berth, and the low-cost addition of Miller could mean that the club won’t seek out more substantial second base or shortstop help at the trade deadline. Miller also adds a bit more depth to the roster at first base and in the corner outfield positions, though Milwaukee is already pretty set at those spots.
Choi signed a minor league deal with the Brewers last offseason that guaranteed him $850K if he reached the majors, so he’ll only add another $510K or so to Tampa’s payroll. The 27-year-old hit .233/.281/.500 over 32 plate appearances for the Crew, getting some time at first base with Eric Thames and Ryan Braun hit the disabled list. (Just yesterday, in fact, Choi hit a pinch-hit grand slam in Milwaukee’s 12-3 rout of the Phillies.) The 27-year-old will essentially replace Miller as a left-handed hitting option in the Rays organization, though the team is currently giving top prospect Jake Bauers (another lefty bat) a chance to stick in the big leagues as a regular first baseman.