Reds prepared to see Choo sign elsewhere
Outfielder's asking price remains high; little progress in meeting with Boras
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Some potential suitors for free agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo have gone in different directions this week at the Winter Meetings.
Does this mean that Choo could still wind up returning to the Reds? Don't count on it.
Choo's agent, Scott Boras, met with the Reds and general manager Walt Jocketty on Tuesday night.
"In Choo's case, we haven't made any progress," Jocketty said on Wednesday.
There were no more talks held on Wednesday.
"I think we have to move on," Jocketty said. "I think that's how we have to plan, anyhow. We have to plan as if we're moving on."
In recent days, Choo lost an option in the Yankees when they signed Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury. During the Winter Meetings, the Mariners and D-backs were viewed as leading suitors for Choo. On Wednesday, Seattle signed free agent Corey Hart and acquired Logan Morrison from the Marlins. On Tuesday, Arizona swung a three-way trade that sent power hitter Mark Trumbo to Phoenix from Anaheim.
Choo, 31, batted .285 with 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and 107 runs scored. He led all Major League leadoff hitters during his one season in Cincinnati with 116 walks and a .423 on-base percentage that trailed only teammate Joey Votto in the National League.
"I think every franchise is looking at Choo [as] someone who can add to those types of players but is a guy who certainly has franchise talent," Boras said. "He's earned the respect of his teammates and his league. He came here and spent a lot of time in the Minor Leagues, working his way. He's a very devoted player. And during his brief playoff time, he hit a home run off a very good left-hander. He played well. So I think he's a player who is really revered."
The Reds were always a long shot to re-sign Choo because of his expected salary demands and the fact that he was one of the premier free agents on the market. Once Robinson Cano and Ellsbury signed with teams last week, Choo became the top player remaining.
Ellsbury, a leadoff hitter and center fielder, was the most comparable player to Choo. His seven-year, $153 million contract with the Yankees, signed on Saturday, essentially put Choo out of reach for the Reds -- even if they were able to somehow trade Brandon Phillips to clear payroll space. Phillips is owed $50 million over the next four years.
When asked Wednesday afternoon if he felt the door had closed on Choo returning to the Reds, Boras instead deflected.
"I think the Reds are very happy with Choo and had a great experience with him," Boras. "I think he was very happy there and really enjoyed his time there. He feels it's a competitive team and a good place to play."
Other teams that have reportedly been interested in Choo have included the Rangers, Tigers and Orioles.
Boras declined to put a timetable on when his client might be signed.
"I think Choo has gone to the Meetings, met with the teams, [is] very methodical, very patient, an in-depth thinker," Boras said. "Certainly, the information he's getting is something he's looking at and is talking about with his wife. I don't think there's any need on his part to make a rapid decision. The fact of the matter is, this market is a little bit further along for him than players you see sign later in January."
The Reds have already tabbed prospect Billy Hamilton as Choo's replacement, if the season were to start today. The club would prefer to have Hamilton compete to earn the job or be brought along slower. Jocketty would like to trade for a center fielder/leadoff man who has a short-term contract.
Nothing was imminent on that front for the Reds, however.
"No progress," Jocketty said.
The Winter Meetings wrap up Thursday morning with the Rule 5 Draft. Cincinnati already has a full 40-man roster and does not plan to make a selection in the Major League phase of the Draft.