Despite the Indians injuries and struggles this year, one bright spot has been the consistent middle-0f-the-order production from South Korean Shin-Soo Choo. After acquiring Choo from Seattle for Ben Broussard (whoops) in the summer of 2006, he has been everything the Indians management expected and more.

He enjoyed a breakout season in 2008, hitting .309/.397/.549 in 94 games and followed it up with his first full season in the majors by slugging 20 homers, 86 RBIs and a line of .300/.394/.489 along with 21 steals. In two months this year, he’s once again hovering around a .300 hitter with seven jacks and 25 RBIs. Choo’s the kind of player at age 28 the Indians would love to lock up, but his future is extremely cloudy due to an interesting aspect that I don’t think I’ve seen before in baseball.

By law South Korean men must begin serving two years in the military prior to their 30th birthday. Choo turns 28 in July, so these questions should arise sometime soon. The New York Times even did an article about it today with the Indians in town.

Choo could always apply for US citizenship to avoid the military service, but the backlash in his home country may not welcome him back to the country ever. I’m not sure anyone could ask him to do that. Another option, which was brought up in the NY Times article, would be for Choo to earn an exemption by helping South Korea win the gold medal at the Asian Games this offseason. I’m not sure how this would give him an exemption to get him out of military duty, but this article seems to think it’s a given if they win. And what if they don’t win the gold medal? Who knows, but the Indians are at least speaking publicly like they aren’t worried about it.

“We feel like he’ll be able to satisfy the military obligation without missing time with us,” Indians General Manager Mark Shapiro said. “We’re confident of that.”

Unlike Shapiro I’m not so sure that he’ll be able to do the military and a full season of baseball at the same time, which leaves Choo’s future with the Indians and MLB in doubt. This will be one story that continues to develop and will be interesting to see how it works out. He’s not eligible to become a free agent until 2013, but this will be a huge factor in the already bleak Indians future.

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