Choo to miss World Baseball Classic

Outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, the biggest South Korean baseball star, isn’t expected to play for his home country during the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

Choo’s agent, Scott Boras, said in a recent interview that the 30-year-old instead will focus his efforts on preparing for the 2013 regular season — his final one before becoming a free agent. Choo also may need to adjust to a new team during spring training, since it’s possible the Cleveland Indians will trade him between now and then.

It appears Choo and Boras are prioritizing what could be a substantial payday for Choo following next season. While insurance is provided to teams and players through the WBC — a joint venture between Major League Baseball and the players’ union — some stars choose to sit out because of fears that the tournament will affect their regular-season performance and, thus, their earnings.

Choo’s absence could be devastating to the title hopes of a South Korean team that reached the semifinals of the inaugural tournament in 2006 and lost the 2009 final to Japan in 10 innings. Choo was the lone major leaguer on the Korean team that stunned star-laden Venezuela, 10-2, to reach the championship game.

Choo is the only South Korean to appear in the majors during either of the past two seasons. He may soon be joined by starter Ryu Hyun-Jin, whose negotiating rights were purchased by the Los Angeles Dodgers last week. (Boras also represents Ryu and said the left-hander won’t pitch in the WBC because of his anticipated adjustment to the major leagues.)

Choo posted an .815 OPS with 16 home runs in 155 games for the Indians this year and is known for his strong throwing arm in right field. During an interview late in the season, Choo said he was undecided about the WBC and acknowledged that many of his Korean friends had been pressuring him to play.

“Of course,” Choo said then. “A lot of countries just enjoy to play (in the WBC), but the Korean team and Japanese team I think are more serious. The United States, Dominican (Republic), Venezuela — a lot of countries just enjoy to play. Korea’s not (that way). There’s more stress and more pressure.”

When asked why the Korean team has had so much success in the WBC with so few MLB players, Choo said, “After the first World Baseball Classic, baseball (became) more popular. There’s so many fans right now, sold-out baseball parks. … We’re getting better in our system, (with) more players. We showed in the WBC the last two times, we’ve done a pretty good job.”

South Korea is scheduled to compete in pool play March 2-5 in Taiwan, against the Netherlands, Australia and a fourth qualifier to be determined.