The Orioles have signed South Korean first baseman Ji-Man Choi to a minor league deal with an invitation to big league spring training, according to an online report out of South Korea.
According to a report from Ilgan Sports, the Orioles signed Choi – who spent the past five years in the Seattle Mariners minor league system – to a deal worth $650,000 if he makes the major league club with incentives that could increase the total value to more than $1 million. The deal also includes a July 1 opt-out clause.
Despite struggling to stay on the field the past two seasons because of injury and a drug suspension, the 24-year-old Choi has posted strong on-base numbers in the minors, including a .280/.379/.401 slash line in 101 games at the Triple-A level. His power numbers in the minors, however, aren't typical of a first baseman.
Choi was Mariners' 25th-best prospect according to Baseball America before the 2014 season, and was on the club's 40-man roster throughout that season. He also played in the 2013 All-Star Futures Game at Citi Field in New York.
He entered spring training last year competing for a backup role at first base, but missed most of the season with a broken leg he suffered in the Mariners’ Cactus League opener.
He spent parts of the past three seasons playing at the Triple-A level, hitting .298/.403/.421 with one homer and 16 RBIs in 18 games for Triple-A Tacoma in 2015.
Choi also missed part of the 2014 season serving a 50-game suspension for a failed drug test. After he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance called methandienone, Choi said he didn’t knowingly take any banned substance. He hit .283/.381/.392 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 70 games with Tacoma in 2014.
He also missed the entire 2011 season with a back injury.