Tampa Bay Rays: Where will Ji-Man Choi play in 2019?
By Austin Reimann
With the recent slew of moves made by the Tampa Bay Rays which included designating C.J. Cron for assignment, Ji-Man Choi was left on the roster and given a chance by the Rays front office.
Much to my surprise, but maybe not yours, Ji-Man Choi remains on the Tampa Bay Rays 40-man roster despite their crunch that required them to clear five roster spots for highly coveted prospects prior to the Rule 5 Draft roster deadline.
Over the course of the last few days the Rays have sent Chih-Wei Hu to the Indians and Jose Mujica to the minors. They have also DFA’d C.J. Cron and relievers Oliver Drake and Holby Milner. These moves cleared five spots for the Rays to add prospects Joe McCarthy, Jesus Sanchez, Brock Burke, Ian Gibaut, and Kyle Bird.
The most interesting decision, in my opinion, is the decision to leave Ji-Man Choi on the roster, a roster in which I do not see Choi fitting. Yes, I know that Choi performed well during his time in Tampa, but I am struggling to see where Choi will find at-bats come opening day. This is not me hating on Choi, I am only asking the obvious question that remains… What role will Choi play in 2019?
The most logical place where Choi will find his playing time is as a designated hitter. As of now, I expect Brandon Lowe to also get some at bats as DH and once the Rays acquire an impactful bat to replace Cron, Choi will really be struggling to find playing time.
One of Tampa’s options to replace Cron’s production is free agent Nelson Cruz, a signing of Cruz would most likely force Choi out of a job. If the Rays go out and acquire a right-handed hitting powerful first baseman, then Bauers would slide into the role that Choi is in right now, again forcing Choi out of a job.
I wouldn’t expect Choi to steal too much of Bauers time at first either, as the Rays will look for their young lefty to continue to mature as a major league player. This again limits Choi to a DH role, a role that I simply didn’t see the Rays setting aside for one player to begin the year. Especially with Lowe, Robertson, and possibly Arroyo at Kevin Cash’s disposal.
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So, with the most likely scenarios laid out following the DFA of Cron where will Choi find playing time in 2019? Where does he fit on the roster come opening day? What do you think?