Updated March. 30, 2007 07:45
Choi Hee-seop of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, also known as Big Choi, now seems likely to join the Kia Tigers. Kia officially drafted the 28-year-old baseball player to their team on Thursday. The news came just one day before the deadline of priority drafting of Korean baseball players playing overseas. The team needs a powerful left-hander and it will only be a matter of time before Choi will adapt to the Korean league, Kia announced in an official press release. Colorado Rockies underhand pitcher Kim Byung-hyun was another possible candidate, but the team selected Choi who they felt was more likely to return to the Korean league. Kia will negotiate the terms of contract with Choi in the near future.
At the beginning of 2007, Choi Hee-seop signed a split contract (a contract that pays a different annual salary depending on whether he makes it onto a major league or minor league roster) in which he will receive a maximum of $1.95 million over two years. After failing to make it as a first baseman at the teams spring camp, where he participated as a non-roster invitee, he was demoted to the U.S. Minor Leagues last Friday.
During a meeting with Korean reporters at the camp, Choi said, I dont see any point in staying in the Minor League. If I dont make it to the opening entry, I will consider returning to Korea or going to Japan.
At a time when Japanese professional teams have already rolled out their player lists for the season, Chois options are limited.
The contract details have yet to come, but the deal is expected to be settled at around 1.35 billion won (1 billion guaranteed with an annual salary of 0.35 billion won) the amount Bong Jung-geun received last year when he moved from the Cincinnati Reds to the LG Twins.
Chois career in the U.S. began when he joined the Chicago Cubs back in 1999 with a contract worth $1.2 million. He was later traded to the LA Dodgers and the Florida Marlins where he achieved a batting average of 0.240, with 40 home runs and 120 RBIs. Last year, he joined the Boston Red Sox, where due to a number of injuries, he failed to deliver an impressive performance. Since then, he has failed to make it back into the major leagues.