After turning down the Reds qualifying offer earlier this offseason, center fielder Shin-Soo Choo has become one of the top free agents on the market. The likelihood of the Reds resigning Choo is very slim, as he is demanding a long term, multimillion dollar deal. The latest rumors on Choo state that he is looking for at least seven years and around $140 million. If no teams make an offer and Choo decides to stay with the Reds, the team would likely have to trade Brandon Phillips.
Phillips is still due to earn $50 million over the next four seasons with the Reds, and if the Reds trade him it would clear some payroll space for Choo. However, the Reds organization has already made plans to move forward without Choo. They have up and coming center fielder Billy Hamilton ready to replace Choo. Hamilton would add youth and speed in the absence of Choo, but Choo’s plate presence will be missed. Choo batted .285 with 21 home runs, 54 RBIs, and 107 runs scored last year. It would be hard to get that kind of production out of someone as young and inexperienced as Hamilton.
Choo’s options seem to be shrinking. One of his main suitors, the Yankees, signed Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury is a player that most resembles Choo, as he plays center field and is a leadoff hitter. His deal with the Yankees is worth $153 million over seven years. This now gives Choo a little more room to demand a higher amount of money since Ellsbury has a similar skill set.
Like I said earlier, if Choo does not return to the Reds, Billy Hamilton will step up to be his replacement. The Reds would like to look for a utility player that can hit leadoff and play center field to split time with Hamilton. They feel like Hamilton is not fully prepared to handle the implications of an every day player as he was just called up to the majors for the first time in his career this September.
Despite early interest for Choo from the Diamondbacks and Tigers, they seem to be out of the picture with their respective signings of Mark Trumbo and Rajai Davis. The Texas Rangers seem to be the top team pursuing Choo, as they will need to replace Nelson Cruz, assuming he does leave. The other main team interested in Choo is the Mariners, who are looking to increase production from their outfielders.
Choo would play right field for the Rangers and most likely the Mariners. Right field is arguably Choo’s “sweet spot” in the outfield and he plays his best defense in the corner. One of the main concerns when he signed with the Reds to replace center field Drew Stubbs last season was that it was too much field for him to cover and that his defensive play would diminish, but there was no drop off in his play as he silenced the critics with stellar defense.
When all is said and done, it would be a shock to see Choo come back to the Reds. There are too many obstacles standing in the way of his return. The Reds will have a hard time finding someone to fill the productiveness of Choo at the top of the lineup, but at this point they just do not have the money to afford his return.
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