According to the Korean Times, the Rays have signed free agent first baseman Hee-Seop Choi. The contract is a 2-year deal valued at $1.95 million. Choi, 27, has not played in the major leagues since 2005, having played last year for the Red Sox AAA affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox. In 66 games he batted .207 with 8 home runs and 27 RBI. He has played parts of four seasons in the big leagues with the Cubs, Marlins and Dodgers. In 2005, Choi hit .253 with 15 home runs and 42 runs driven in for the Dodgers.
Choi will be invited to spring training as a non-roster invitee with an opportunity to compete for the starting first base job. The move is a clear indication that the Rays front office is not afraid to spend money on free agents. There is no guarantee that Choi will begin the regular season as the starting first baseman with several in-house candidates already set to compete for the job, including Ty Wiggington, and several players that could be moved to fill the void, such as Jorge Cantu, Jonny Gomes and Elijah Dukes. In the past, $2 million would have been too steep of a price for a player that might not even make the opening day 25-man roster. This is yet another sign that the Rays may be ready to loosen the purse strings when value presents itself.