The Tampa Bay Rays are dealing with a roster crunch as they approach the non-tender deadline. They made a series of moves Thursday, including placing a group of players on waivers (reliever Nick Anderson among them) and declining to pick up the option on center fielder Kevin Kiermaier's contract, making him a free agent.
Then they traded first baseman Ji-Man Choi to the Pirates.
Our own R.J. Anderson made note of why this was going to happen a few days ago:
Just speculation on my part, but I expect the Rays and the Brewers to be active before the Nov. 18 tender deadline. They have 37 arbitration eligible players between them, including several who seem likely to be on new teams next year (Choi and Houser among them).— R.J. Anderson (@r_j_anderson) November 8, 2022
Choi, 31, was a fixture on the Rays playoff teams the last four seasons. He hit two home runs in the 2020 playoffs en route to the Rays winning the AL pennant and he hit .385/.529/.615 in the ALCS that year. This past season, he hit .233/.341/.388 (114 OPS+, though heavy on the on-base side) with 22 doubles, 11 homers, 52 RBI and 1.2 WAR. He'll take his walks and get some hits, as evidenced by the .345 career on-base percentage, but the .239 average and especially .429 slugging percentage for a first baseman leave something to be desired, especially since the slugging keeps falling.
The Rays' return is minor-league pitcher Jack Hartman. The 24-year-old right-hander had a 6.27 ERA and 2.03 WHIP with 19 strikeouts and 16 walks in 18 2/3 innings for Class A Bradenton last year. He was the Pirates' fourth-round pick out of Appalachian State in the 2020 draft.