CLEVELAND – Now that Shin-Soo Choo seems unlikely to be donning military fatigues, the Cleveland Indians would like the outfielder to wear their uniform for as long as possible.
The Indians expect Choo to be exempted from military service for leading South Korea to a 9-3 gold-medal win over Taiwan in the Asian Games on Friday.
"We have not received official word, but based upon our understanding prior to the tournament and past precedent, it will be waived," new Indians general manager Chris Antonetti said.
Working out a long-term deal with Choo's agent, Scott Boras, has been one of Antonetti priorities since he replaced new team president Mark Shapiro as GM last month.
"It is something we will explore," Antonetti said. "He is under club control for the next three years, but we understand his value and hope he will be a Cleveland Indian for a long time. We certainly will try to work through this project with Scott."
The 28-year-old Choo is eligible for salary arbitration this winter and even if the process does not go to a hearing, he will get a huge raise over the $461,100 he earned this year. He was Cleveland's most productive player, hitting .300 with 22 home runs, 22 stolen bases and 90 RBIs.
He hit .571 (8 for 14) with three homers and 11 RBIs in the Asian Games, including two hits and two RBIs in the title game.
"I am kind of dreaming right now," Choo said after the win in Guangzhou, China. "Honestly, if I didn't think about the military service, I might be a liar. But it wasn't the primary reason to join the national team. I love baseball, and whenever I put the national flag on the (uniform) shoulder, I am really proud of my nation and myself."
All able-bodied South Korean males are required to serve in the military between the ages of 20 and 30. Choo's window for doing so was closing. South Korea's players earned exemptions for winning gold at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, but Choo was just getting back to action in the U.S. after having Tommy John surgery on his left elbow the previous fall.
"I watched every game on television and I was happy for my country, but sad I was not there," Choo said in August. "I like America very much. I like the Indians. But I really want to play for my country."