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The Choice

Paul Konerko resigned with the White Sox, leaving the Dodgers one less option to fill their hole at first base. Their big, gaping hole at first base. The unconscionable, inconceivable hole at first base which should be fixed before the Dodgers move any further into the offseason. If filling that hole means idly discarding the incumbent, well, perhaps a deal could be arranged....

Hee Seop Choi is a Rorschach test with a mitt. How you approach baseball analysis -- scouting or statistics -- will probably influence your initial impression of Choi. The scouts wince at the 4'x4' hole in his swing; the statistics say the guy has done nothing but hit as a professional. Those in the middle can be a little confused.

For the Choithusiasts, it's fun to dream. A young, powerful first baseman, still stomping around like a puppy who hasn't grown into his feet yet; that's something the Giants could use now, and something the Giants could use going forward. "Iron" Ned Colletti can't be too enamored of the wild flailings of Choi, and with a grown-up's budget it has to be tempting to use Choi as a trade chip. The perceived holes in a swing are of no concern to Choithusiasts. Grizzled scouts could tell a story of a player who was equipped with every tool there was, but the only one he used in professional baseball was a hacksaw. That boy...sniff...grew be Derrek Lee. The stats don't forecast Choi to match Lee's current production, but the Giants or Dodgers would be happy simply with the Derrek Lee that stopped being bad for the Marlins. It isn't out of the question for Choi to be that variety of hitter, especially considering his youth.

The anti-Choi faction probably can trace their feelings back to one pitch. One Todd Ritchie slider that Choi waved at as if Ritchie had invented a new pitch, or a fastball above the eyes that even Marvin Bernard would take. Alright, Bernard wouldn't take it, but it's hyperbole, dang it. Choi can look bad, and doesn't have the Adam Dunn-type power to instantly make up for it. The ACF doesn't disrespect the Choithusiasts, they just think the Choithusiasts lack first-hand observation.

I have not seen Choi play extensively, but have seen him enough to have a cot in both camps. When I watch Choi swing at a pitch he has no business swinging at, I laugh. He's a Dodger, and that's my right. When I see Brett Tomko carve Choi up like a luau boar, I think of Todd Linden. That's the comparison I just can't get out of my head. Linden is like a teenager who has looked at pictures of a strike zone in magazines behind the garage. He's talked with his guy friends about what he'd do if he got a strike zone alone. But when he's finally able to get a strike zone in the back seat of a Dodge Dart, everyone leaves angry or sad. Choi seems to be the same kind of creature. He wants to be patient, but his struggles with pitch recognition can negate the benefits of patience. Every few games he'll jack one 783 feet, or work a 13-pitch walk, and remind everyone why he's kept around.

I'm not convinced Choi will ever be more than average. I'm not convinced he'll even plateau at average. But what are the options? Daryle Ward? Lance Niekro? A Scott Hatteberg-for-Eddy Martinez Esteve deal? I will take the promise of Choi in a heartbeat, especially considering the options remaining to the Giants. Against the tough lefties, Pedro Feliz or Niekro can help out. The Dodgers can't be asking the world for Choi, and will lose a lot of leverage if they snatch up a replacement first basemen before he's dealt.

There is also no way the Giants will trade for Choi. Ned Colletti and Brian Sabean are cut from the same front office cloth. Without putting too many words into the mouth of Sabean, I would guess Choi is probably seen as someone the Giants can't afford to be patient with. They need a proven hitter, though I'm hoping "proven awful" doesn't count. Yeah, I'm looking at you Daryle.

I do think the Dodgers and Giants will deal minor parts in the near future, and we'll all be reminded several times of the last Dodger/Giant trade involving the Manchurian Rightfielder, Candy Maldonado. I don't think the two teams will even bring Choi's name up. I wouldn't give up the farm for him, especially to the Dodgers. There would be no worse fate than to have Travis Ishikawa ripping 50 doubles a year in that soulless blue. If there could be some sort of three-way deal - Choi to the Giants, mid-level prospects to a third-team, absolute crap to the Dodgers - I'm on board, if only because the rest of the options are so grim.