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Friday's Game - Papi Choi Edition
2006-03-24 20:39
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Randy Johnson turned in his second consecutive strong showing yesterday, but the Yankees' road lineup of bench players couldn't muster enough offense to make it count resulting in a 3-1 Twins win.

Lineup:

Bubba Crosby CF
Miguel Cairo SS
Bernie Williams DH
Andy Phillips 1B
Robinson Cano 2B
Kelly Stinnett C
Luis A. Garcia RF
Russ Johnson 3B
Kevin Reese LF

Subs: Ramiro Pena SS, Omir Santos C, Kevin Thompson RF, Tim Battle PR

Pitchers: Randy Johnson, Jose Veras, Dusty Bergman

Big Hits: Just a double by Andy Phillips (1 for 3)

Who Pitched Well: As I said, Johnson: 6 1/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 HR (Terry Tiffee), 0 BB, 6 K

Notes: Because both of his final two spring starts were to come against the Devil Rays, Mike Mussina will instead take his turn with the minor league campers today against the minor league D-Rays. In his place, Matt Childers will make the major league start.

***

After the game, the Red Sox claimed ex-Dodger Hee Seop Choi--whose availability has been an inevitability ever since the Dodgers signed Nomar Garciaparra to play first base, if not since the firing of Paul DePodesta--off waivers. Choi is a twenty-seven-year-old lefty-hitting first baseman with a severe platoon split who has yet to live up to his potential. Three years ago, the Twins released another twenty-seven-year-old lefty-hitting first baseman with a severe platoon split who had never lived up to his potential. That player signed with the Red Sox and proceeded to be one of the ten most productive players in the game over the following three years. His name is David Ortiz. Here's a comparison of the two players' careers prior to signing with Boston:

David Ortiz: .266/.348/.461, .524 OWP, 1693 PA
Hee Seop Choi: .240/.349/.437, .531 OWP, 1086 PA

Indeed, the age-27 player Choi is most similar to according to PECOTA is none other than Big Papi himself.

Ortiz's numbers since signing with the Red Sox: .297/.383/.600, .709 OWP, 1891 PA

When Ortiz was available in the winter of 2003, George Steinbrenner instructed Brian Cashman to sign him, but Cashman refused because of the presence of both Jason Giambi, who had just hit .314/.435/.598 in the first year of a seven-year, $120 million contract, and Nick Johnson, a home-grown prospect who was nearly three years Ortiz's junior (incidentally, Johnson, who was the key player sent to the Expos in the Javy Vazquez deal, is also 27 this offseason and has a better career line than Choi or Ortiz at the same age: .265/.383/.437, .587 OWP, 1767 PA).

This year, the Yankees still have Giambi (coming off a .271/.440/.535 comeback season), but their back-up is Andy Phillips, who not only lacks any sort of meaningful major league track record (just 49 career PA), but is nearly two years older than Choi. I've long been rooting for the Yankees to give Phillips a shot because of his minor league numbers, but even I couldn't argue against limiting him to a utility/righty pinch-hitter role, or even dumping him altogether in favor of the younger, more established Choi, whose lefty swing could have been a perfect fit for Yankee Stadium. A Choi/Phillips DH platoon, meanwhile, could have pushed the Yankee offense into 1000-run territory this year. Instead, Choi's presence in Boston will allow the Red Sox to kick the 38-year-old J.T. Snow to the curb and, if necessary, move Kevin Youkilis to third base should Mike Lowell fail to rebound from his dreadful 2005.

But don't blame Brian Cashman, or anyone else in the Yankee front office for that matter. Because of the waiver order--which begins with the worst team in the same league as the waiving team (determined by the previous year's standings through the thirtieth day of a new season), proceeds to the best team in that league, then begins the other league again going worst-to-first--the Red Sox were able to claim Choi before the Yankees got their shot. In a vicious twist, it was the tie-breaker that awarded the Yankees the 2004 AL East title--which proved to be worth little more than bragging rights as the second-place Red Sox claimed the Wild Card, neither team had home field advantage in the playoffs, and both were eliminated in the ALDS--that cost them Choi. This is very different than what happened with Ortiz. Ortiz was released before the Twins had to offer him a contract for 2003, making him a free agent during the winter of 2002-2003. Choi, on the other hand, had already re-upped with the Dodgers by signing a one-year $725,000 deal, thus he had to be waived lest the Dodgers be forced to eat that entire contract. Instead, the Red Sox will assume his full salary and likely paid a waiver price for the privilege. They'll almost certainly get their money's worth, though it's staggering to think that 26 other clubs passed on Choi before the Red Sox put in their claim.

Comments
2006-03-25 03:08:49
1.   singledd
Thanks for the explaination Cliff...
I would have jumped on him, but I wasn't sure if we had the chance or not. I guess not. A great pickup for the Sox (shit), although (as you alluded to) Choi himself would probably prefer playing in Yankee Stadium. And I agree, how could 26 teams pass him up?
2006-03-25 04:09:27
2.   Paul in Boston
Excellent, nice comparison and explanation.

Choi has been a pet of us internet baseball fans for years, yet he doesn't seem to stick when he gets to a club. I suspect there's something more here going on than his "numbers" -- a personality issue? A failure to learn? In any event, if this is Ortiz II, then indeed Epstein is The Greatest GM in the History of Baseball, as I'm so frequently reminded up here already.

2006-03-25 04:39:16
3.   Garnered
Don't worry, I'm quite certain the Yankees already have a lock on Seung-yeop Lee as soon as he finishes his one year stint with the Yomiuri Giants. As far as Choi's personality goes, every off-season he goes back to Korea and runs baseball camps for kids, donates time and money to children's charities, and is universally acclaimed as an all-around great guy. I don't think he's ever been given a fair chance as a starter in the MLB, but once he does I expect big things. I'm starting to feel dumb for badmouthing Theo, first he fleeces the Reds for Wily Mo Pena and now this. There may be an obscene amount of HR's in Boston this season...
2006-03-25 05:24:06
4.   Nick from Washington Heights
Cliff, couldn't you make the argument that given the Sox's obvious liking of and need for Choi, the Yanks should have preempted the waiver process and traded a low-level prospect for him? Could the Yanks have done that? There were rumors that he was going to be waivered for a few days, so it's not as if the front office didn't know.
2006-03-25 06:56:53
5.   Vishal
[2] i highly doubt there is anything to do with choi's personality. everything i've heard is that he is a joy to be around, very easygoing and happy and enthusiastic. even milton bradley was tight with him. he's a really likeable kid.
2006-03-25 07:24:04
6.   unpopster
jeez, Cliff, I know Choi was a decent pick up by the Sox, but can we all refrain from the hyperbole? I mean, there's a reason why the Dodgers waived him and not traded him. And, there's a reason why 26 teams passed on him, especially given that he is owed less than $1mm in 2006.

Choi's current value is arguably marginal to most teams. He is a platoon player, at the very best.

And Ortiz II? Gimme a break!

This waiver pick up says much more about what the Sox honestly feel about Lowell and his batspeed. By adding Choi, the Sox have essentailly admitted that they are VERY worried about Lowell -- enough to pick up another platoon lefty 1B as insurance in case Lowell falters (as I predict he will). This pick up would allow them to move Youkilis to his natural 3B position and give the 1B job to two lefties, Snow and Choi.

As for the Yanks, they have a powerhitting, on-base-machine, lefty 1B in the name of Giambi and a power-hitting, youngster with a lot of upside in Phillips who could spell Giambi from the right side. In all honesty, the last thing the Yanks needed was another lefty 1B with very pronounced splits.

As for Theo fleecing the Reds for Willy Mo Pena, did any of you read Eric Wilbur's article in the Boston Globe from a few days ago? He predicted that Pena would hit his share of home runs, thus energizing the Fenway crowd, but would also frustrate and most likely infuriate that same crowd with his penchant for the strike-out. He essentially predicted a love-hate relationship similar to that with Mark Bellhorn.

2006-03-25 07:28:42
7.   Rob Gee
4 I'm with you Nick - If the team was going to lose him any ways why not take a low-level prospect? I think it has something to do with a certain GM in the Bronx.

That said, who do you cut to make room for the Choi/Phillips platoon? Assuming 4 or 5 bench players (depending on the number of pitchers), with GOB and Kelly locked in, dropping Cairo means Phillips is the emergency replacement at SS and 3B too? Or drop Andy? And no other replacement for the OF than Bernie? It's crazy to think that this team didn't have room for Choi - but that's exactly the way the team is constructed - no roster flexibility.

2006-03-25 07:40:58
8.   sabernar
Ah, I'm glad Rob Gee was able to turn the Choi signing into a Cashman slam. Good to hear that things haven't changed much in the past 5 minutes.
2006-03-25 08:07:00
9.   NetShrine
Cliff, I beat you to this by three months,

http://www.waswatching.com/archives/2005/12/a_chance_to_get.html

Dude, could you at least throw a brother a link? ;-)

2006-03-25 08:13:46
10.   debris
Unpopster,

Choi is insurance against either Snow or Lowell not being up to the task. Rest assured, that the Sox will not keep both Snow AND Choi, two lefthanded hitting first basemen.

And aren't you pushing the envelope just a bit referring to Phillips as a "youngster?"

2006-03-25 08:44:49
11.   unpopster
Debris, so if Lowell is damaged goods as I suspect, what do the Sox do at 1B? Youkilis moves to 3B and who is the righty-hitting 1B?

In fact, we're 2 weeks away from opening day and the Sox still have no idea what they'll get from their revamped infield. Is Lowell cooked? Will Loretta bounce back from an injury-shortened 2005 season and put up his Padres-calibre numbers in the AL? Will Alex Gonzalez hit a lick? Who the hell is playing 1B?

The only sure thing is Papi as the DH and occasional 1B and Varitek at C. But with Mirabelli gone, who will catch Wakefield's floaters?

Also, Phillips may not be a youngster by age (he's 28), but he's a "youngster" when it comes to experience and what is expected from him on the 2006 Yanks. And, it's been argued that he should had been given this chance 2 years ago, at the age of 26, but the Yankee FO and Torre held him unfairly back.

By the way, here's some of Wilbur's article:

"But in 2006 at least, Wily Mo Pena is going to drive fans nuts.

Last season, Pena struck out at the same rate as old friend Mark Bellhorn (once every 2.6 at bats), who often walked back to the dugout under a chorus of boos and jeers at Fenway. Yes, fans might be a bit more forgiving with Pena, seeing as he slugged 19 home runs in those 311 at-bats, while Bellhorn struggled to hit .216 with seven homers in 283 at-bats. Pena also walked just 20 times over that span, while Bellhorn more than doubled that production (49).

Pena might slug a three-run homer with runners on first and third. He also is going to strike out at an alarming pace in that situation, driving fans to let out their aggressions on a work in progress."

2006-03-25 08:50:08
12.   unpopster
BTW, I only harp on the Red Sox because of the negativity of many Yankee fans, who often suffer from the "grass is greener" syndrome. I need to point out how some teams have much bigger problems than we do.

I heard Joe Beningo talking about this on WFAN a few days ago. The average Yankee fan is NEVER satisfied with the team that George and Brian Cashman put on the field. There's always a "better option".

Well friends, Choi is not a "better option" by any means. 26 teams passed on him for a reason. And I'd rather give Phillips the chance than bring in Choi.

So all of you criticizing Cashman for his non-moves (Rob Gee, I'm looking at YOU), take a deep breathe and realize that barring some serious injuries, this team is built to win the AL East in 2006.

Ever the optomist...yours truly,
Unpopster

2006-03-25 09:38:08
13.   debris
Unpopster,

Not worried about Loretta, Gonzalez doesn't have to hit a lick. re: 1b and 3b, the Sox, who believe in having a bench (unlike Cashman) have options.

As far as the righty first baseman should Lowell be cooked, my best guess is that Youk will move back to first and Lowell will play against lefties only, giving them the better half of his platoon split and gaining the advantage of his glove. And, no matter how cooked Lowell might be, can he possibly give the Sox less than Millar did last year?

We, at least, know who are starting rotation will contain.

You are right about one thing, absolutely, you are ever the optimist.

2006-03-25 09:42:21
14.   Yankee Fan in Chicago
Do the Sawx really know their starters? Thought they were still trying to move Tubby Wells and/or Clement to make room for the kids.
2006-03-25 10:11:44
15.   JasonWA
Choi still has a minor league option so the Sox will stash him in Pawtucket to start the season.
2006-03-25 10:13:22
16.   unpopster
MAYBE the Sox know the names in their starting rotation, but do they know what they'll get from their starting rotation?

Schilling - which Schilling, the 2004 version or the 2005 version? To quote Rotoworld.com:

"Despite 10 strikeouts, Curt Schilling surrendered five runs in seven innings Friday in a minor league game. He gave up eight hits while throwing 109 pitches ...against Triple-A Ottawa. Schilling might need to work outside the strike zone a little more once the regular season starts. He's simply not as difficult to hit as he once was.

Beckett - will he FINALLY throw 200 innings? Is his arm sound?

Wakefield - though the closest thing to a sure thing, how will he fair without Mirabeli?

And as Yankee Fan in Chicago pointed out, will Wells and Clemente be hear in May? If so, which Clemente do you get, the one from last season's 1st half or the one from the second half? And, how long before Wells pisses off the whole city of Boston and runs himself out of town?

Don't even get me started on Foulke.

As for the Yankee rotation, I'm really liking what I'm seeing from Johnson and Chacon. The rest? who knows?

2006-03-25 10:15:03
17.   Rob Gee
8 sabernar: Read the lines written rather than between them - nothing I said was a slam. This team is constructed a certain way - in that way there's no room for Choi. That's a fact. As a comment on a certain GM - you interpret that however you want.

12 unpopster - Look I really do believe the Yanks win the East. But just because that happens doesn't mean it's a well constructed team or built for the post-season or the future. That said, there's been some bad choices (esp. the Bench) that very well could impact our ability to win said East. You mention "barring some serious injuries" - what about some regular injuries or just wear and tear? Look at what happens at the catcher slot. If we lost Jorge for two weeks during the regular season, with Kelly as the fill-in maybe we lose two games we wouldn't have otherwise. Now, those two games may not make much of a difference but they damn well could. Or suppose, Jorge is more worn down in October because he played 120 games rather than 90 or 100 games. See, these choices do matter and I don't have to slam anybody to point them out.

Let's play some ball already.

2006-03-25 10:24:07
18.   bloodyank78
BoSox Rotation: Schill, Beckett, Wells, Clement, Wakefield. (Papelbon moved to pen as of yesterday per ESPN.com and MLB.com)

Yank Rotation: RJ, Moose, Wang, Chacon, Pavano/Wright/Proctor

So our number 5 starter (who is not necessary before mid April) is between three guys, one of whom (Proctor) having pitched brilliantly so far this Spring. So Debris; what are you talking about?

2006-03-25 10:45:58
19.   Rob Gee
Just broadcast:

Kay: I asked Joe Torre about Bernie playing RF.

Joe said "I think Bernie's arm is stronger than it's been the last couple of years. I don't think we're going to worry about that."

Sigh....

2006-03-25 11:25:27
20.   Cliff Corcoran
Steve 9, any Yankee blogger worth his salt made some pitch for Choi around the non-tender date:

https://bronxbanter.baseballtoaster.com/archives/306055.html

As for room on the bench for Choi (which is moot, but still) the when the Yanks activate/call-up their fifth starter they'll drop to a four-man bench (Phillips, Stinnett, Cairo, Crosby/Thompson), dropping the last man in the bullpen would make room for Choi. Meanwhile, the Sox actually have a much more difficult time finding room for Choi as their bench will be some combination of Bard, Graffanino, Cora, Pena, Snow, Stern and Choi. The Sox also have well-stocked pen. In fact, the Red Sox roster, be it the offense, rotation or bullpen has questionable primary players (the entire infield, Wells, Schilling, Clement, Beckett, Foulke), but a very strong support staff. In that way it's the exact opposite of the Yankee roster, which has fantastic and reliable primary players, but questionable support.

2006-03-25 11:33:22
21.   capdodger
6jeez, Cliff, I know Choi was a decent pick up by the Sox, but can we all refrain from the hyperbole? I mean, there's a reason why the Dodgers waived him and not traded him.

The reason the Dodgers waived Choi is Nomar Garciaparra. Despite being less productive than the Saenz/Choi platoon, he was signed to play first base. Choi's release was a clear consequence of the hiring of Ned Colletti and instabillity of the Dodgers' front office.

Choi was a bit of a victim last year of the tug-of-war going on between Jim Tracy and Paul DePodesta. The best example of this was a weekend interleauge series against the Twins. Choi hit 7 home runs in 3 games, each of which were close games. Choi won those three games for the Dodgers. In the Monday or Tuesday game that week, Choi went 0-3. He was then benched the next day due to "arm angles" and then buried for a week. You say he's streaky, and I don't argue that, but I would argue that some of that streakiness comes from useage patterns. In any case, he'll do well for Boston, because they'll give him a chance to play.

2006-03-25 12:16:38
22.   brockdc
I realize how anecdotal this is, but a couple buddies of mine are huge Dodgers fans and could care less that Choi is gone. According to both of them, Choi has a looping, massive hole in his swing, as evidenced by his righty-lefty splits. Personally, I wouldn't know, as I'd rather watch an pre-season curling than any L.A. Dodgers game, which, for me at least, ooze boredom.

And I'm not entirely convinced that I'd rather have Choi than Phillips, either. True, Choi actually has a major league track record, though one of profound mediocrity. This is going to sound insane, but I actually think Phillips has more upside (and, yes, I realize he's no kid either).

2006-03-25 12:30:08
23.   brockdc
unpopster, that's an excellent point in 12, and I know I'm often guilty of acting a bit pessimistic now and again. My attitude's certainly changed in that regard through the years (I recall in '96 just being happy that they were on the same field as the Atlanta Braves).

On the other hand, I think it's important to remain critical - or perhaps a better term is circumspect - about the pattern of misguided and ill-advised decisions that have plagued the Yankee front office over the past half decade.

2006-03-25 13:43:43
24.   das411
21 - And then there is GoBears's post on the DodgerThoughts Choi thread yesterday:

If I'm right that the most likely victim of Boston's Hee Swipe Choi is one JT Snow, and since our GM has a fetish for mediocre, over-the-hill ex-Giants, and since our new starting 1bman is injury prone....

I can't even finish the sentence...

2006-03-25 13:52:15
25.   yankz
Totally irrelevant, but I remember hearing this once, so I decided to look it up:

http://tinyurl.com/rrep7

Pretty cool...three of the top four hit leaders since Jeter's rookie year. He's got the lead by a comfortable margin.

2006-03-25 18:39:34
26.   Levy2020
I'm convinced that the Choi pickup is karmic. Darrell Rasner will strike him out in a big moment.
2006-03-26 01:58:56
27.   nycfan
"Well friends, Choi is not a "better option" by any means. 26 teams passed on him for a reason."

And 29 teams passed on David Ortiz a few years ago, who happens to be the top PECOTA comp for Choi. General Managers and fans are too clueless to see anything past the erratic usage and excessive k's.

2006-03-26 05:35:27
28.   Rob Gee
25 And Bernie's at #8.

Here's a thought (perhaps good for a short story): You're a well-respected baseball player, age 37, who has consistently put up top numbers in the game for the last ten years. But your bat speed isn't what it used to be and you're seeing the end of the line. Yet, when you look around at the game there are other players who should have aged, and lost their skills, just as you did. They didn't and there's a high chance their fountain of youth came in a syringe. Knowing that some of these enhancements, aren't still detectable, do you decide on one last hurrah? Do you do it for your fans (you rationalize)? Or do you try it to satisfy your own curiosity? The money isn't an issue - you've made more than enough through the years and you're an a very
cheap contract. But, most importantly, you've decided this WILL be your last year regardless of the result of your experiment.

Do you juice?

2006-03-26 06:39:31
29.   wsporter
NO!
2006-03-26 07:08:13
30.   mikeplugh
The Choi signing was good for Boston, but they won't get full value out of him unless they play him every day. He has a lot of holes in his swing, and while he has "potential", can they afford to play him enough to develop him at the Major League level?

Perhaps there will be a lot of teams kicking themselves for letting him pass on waivers, but not this year in my opinion. I think you may see him hit some home runs for Boston during the year, but he will never hit for average. He's not David Ortiz.

For anyone who cares, Daisuke Matsuzaka is pitching his first start of the year on Tuesday. I preview his appearance at Canyon of Heroes and I'll be recapping post-game. I've initiated "Matsuzaka Watch" and I'll be reporting prior and post start each time he appears.

I'm considering doing the same for Uehara and one of my personal favorites Iwakuma of Rakuten. Check it out.

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