Shin-Soo Choo has been even better than the Reds expected in the early going, and as the projected second-best free agent on the market, the natural question is whether the Reds will try to sign him. Reds GM Walt Jocketty reluctantly addressed the topic, telling MLB.com's Mark Sheldon:
"I hate to even address it. We got him with the idea we would get him for the year and then try to develop [Billy] Hamilton to play next year. If we're in a position where we think we can sign Choo, it's a big bonus for us. Would we love to? Absolutely. But we have to really look and see where our financial revenues and financial projections of future revenues are. It's still a little early to do that." Jocketty admitted, "There's not a lot to spare, I can tell you that."
If the Reds allow Bronson Arroyo to leave, they might just be able to squeeze Choo in while keeping a payroll in the $110MM range, if he'd accept a somewhat backloaded contract. That includes some back of the napkin arbitration calculations on my part. There are always ways to find a few million bucks, though.
Choo has mostly deflected questions to date about his upcoming free agency. Talking to Sheldon, Choo didn't add much, but he did note, "I want to stay in the same area for a long time — wherever it is. Kids need their dad. It's hard in the baseball season — you spend six months away by yourself, and six months you get together in the offseason. I want to stay in one area. But I'm not thinking about it. I'm not thinking about teams or cities."
If Choo keeps playing like an All-Star, there's little doubt his free agent contract will be one of the longer ones of the 2013-14 offseason. Still, guarantees of four-plus years are hard to come by in free agency. Only eight were given to free agents last offseason. Of those, only three were for a player entering his age 31 or later season: Josh Hamilton for five years, Nick Swisher for four, and Angel Pagan for four. If long-term security is a key for Choo, perhaps he can sacrifice a bit on his salary to ensure that fifth guaranteed year. Swisher and Michael Bourn were not able to get it, instead settling for vesting options from the Indians.