Pirates interested in Indians outfielder Shin-Soo Choo

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ESPN’s Jayson Stark reported last week that the Indians are listening to offers on outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, who’ll be entering his final year of arbitration in 2013 before hitting free agency leading into 2014.

And now the Tribe might have a legitimate suitor.

According to beat writer Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Pirates have expressed recent interest in acquiring Choo to bolster their lineup and play left field. But word is it might take Starling Marte to pluck him from Cleveland.

Marte, 23, got promoted to the major leagues on Thursday and homered on the first pitch of his career. The Pirates’ top offensive prospect was batting .286/.347/.500 with 12 home runs, 21 doubles, 13 triples and 21 stolen bases in 431 plate appearances at Triple-A Indianapolis before his call-up.

The second-place Pirates have already acquired left-handed starter Wandy Rodriguez from the Astros, but they need to improve an offense that has scored 87 fewer runs than the third-place Cardinals in order to stay in the mix for a postseason spot. The Bucs do currently lead the NL Wild Card chase.

Choo, a 30-year-old native of South Korea, has an .871 OPS and 12 homers in 96 games this season.

There is, indeed, an MLB-to-Portland group

Associated Press
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On Monday, Baseball America reported that MLB is prepared to expand to Portland and Montreal. We talked about that at length yesterday. One of the most common responses to that piece has been “Portland? Really?”

There’s good reason for that response. Baseball-to-Portland has been talked about for years, but there has never been any real traction. Past initiatives have failed, significant public funding for a stadium seems to be a political impossibility and, heck, Portland wasn’t even interested in keeping its Triple-A team, turning its stadium into a much more successful soccer venue and not missing the Beavers all that much.

It would seem, however, that the reports are not mere speculation and there is a genuine baseball-to-Portland initiative afoot once again. From the Oregonian:

On Tuesday, former Trail Blazers broadcaster Mike Barrett confirmed to The Oregonian/OregonLive that he is part of the Portland group.

“I am officially involved with a campaign to bring Major League Baseball and a stadium development to Portland,” Barrett said. “There is also a formally organized, sophisticated and seasoned management group running this initiative. We will keep you fully apprised of any/all developments as this project progresses.”

One guy — a broadcaster no less — saying he’s part of a group is not exactly a major needle-mover, of course. But it does contrast with past Portland initiatives that have been well-publicized grassroots affairs. While those may have been more broad-based and while their public nature may have provided some refreshing transparency, the simple fact of professional sports ownership in the 21st century is that well-monied groups who play things close to the vest are more likely to make waves. We’re in an age when technocratic hedge fund-type guys make things happen in this arena, not in an age when flamboyant public personalities do.

None of which is to say that baseball in Portland is a lock or that expansion anywhere is a short term proposition. It’s just to note that, yeah, there is a bit more going on, it seems, than just pointing at a map and saying “yeah, a team would make sense here.”