Reds tender $14.1 million qualifying offer to Choo
Club hopes to re-sign outfielder; Arroyo can sign elsewhere without compensation
CINCINNATI -- The Reds know they have long odds to re-sign productive center fielder and leadoff hitter Shin-Soo Choo. But they took a step Monday to at least remain in the hunt for his services and get some protection should he leave.
Ahead of a 5 p.m. ET deadline, the club extended the free agent Choo a $14.1 million qualifying offer for a new one-year deal for 2014. Choo has until 5 p.m. ET on Nov. 11 to accept or decline the offer.
Should Choo reject the offer, which he is expected to do, he would be free to sign with any interested club -- including the Reds. Last year, all nine players that received qualifying offers declined them and eight of the nine signed with a different team.
If Choo signs with another team, Cincinnati would receive a compensation pick in the June First-Year Player Draft. All compensatory picks come between the first and second rounds, and are made in reverse order of winning percentage.
Long before the season ended, Choo was viewed as one of the biggest names entering the market for teams needing outfield and left-handed hitting help. Many of the rumored clubs reported with interest this fall have been the Yankees, Mets, Rangers and Phillies. The Reds would like to keep Choo, however.
"We hope to be able to put something together that might interest him," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said on Monday. "We think he enjoyed his time with us and would entertain, if we had a competitive offer, to come back with us. We'll see when the negotiating time comes. I don't expect it to be anything that happens any time soon."
Meanwhile, a qualifying offer was not extended to the Reds' other free agents, including longtime Reds starting pitcher Bronson Arroyo, relievers Zach Duke, Manny Parra and Nick Masset and infielder Cesar Izturis. That means the Reds get no compensation if these players sign elsewhere.
The toughest of those decisions came on Arroyo, who has been with the Reds since 2006. He has pitched 200 or more innings in seven of his eight seasons in Cincinnati and has been one of the more consistent pitchers on the staff.
"We thought about it quite a while," Jocketty said. "We'll still be able to attempt to try and sign him, but if he ended up accepting, it would be very tough to fit it into the budget."
With lefty Tony Cingrani coming off of a strong rookie year, and a much cheaper option, Arroyo could have a better shot at signing elsewhere -- especially now that there is no compensation required. He is looking for at least a two-year contract.
Acquired by the Reds in a Dec. 11 three-way trade that sent outfielder Drew Stubbs to Cleveland and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to Arizona, Choo provided stability at the leadoff spot.
In 151 games, Choo batted .285 with 21 home runs, 54 RBIs and 107 runs. He led all Major League leadoff hitters with 116 walks and his .423 on-base percentage trailed only teammate Joey Votto in the National League. Hit by a pitch a Major League-leading 26 times, he also set a new franchise record.
Overall, Choo reached base safely 300 times in the 2013 season and joined with Votto in being the first set of teammates to achieve that feat since Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter did it for the 1999 Yankees.
Defensively, Choo played center field for the first time regularly after spending most of his career as a corner outfielder. What he lacked in range and speed, he made up for with general consistency by making only four errors and a .989 fielding percentage.
"I think he was happy here. He indicated that to me," Jocketty said. "I think he enjoyed playing in Cincinnati and being part of a winning club. Hopefully those are important factors."
Choo, 31, earned $7.375 million in the final season of a three-year contract he signed with the Indians. Now he stands to make considerably more -- no matter where he ends up in 2014.