If the beginning of this offseason is any indication of things to come, the Cincinnati Reds need to start looking for options other than Shin-Soo Choo to play center field. There aren't many affordable options for the club, but it's one of the lone holes on the team.
Money is being thrown around by teams this offseason. The Reds aren't going to be able to compete with the likes of the Detroit Tigers, the New York Yankees and the New York Mets in a bidding war for Choo.
Scott Boras, Choo's agent, is looking for his client to get a contract worth more than the $126 million over seven years Jayson Werth got from the Washington Nationals in 2010. In this market, he's could get that money over six seasons.
The chances of re-signing him entering this offseason were slim. However, they have all but disappeared after seeing some of the contracts handed out so far.
As Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported, the New York Yankees just gave catcher Brian McCann a five-year, $85 million deal, which could wind up being $100 million over six years. CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reported that Jhonny Peralta got than $53 million over four years. If those players can get deals like that, Choo is going to get paid handsomely.
With all of that being said, let's check out who the Reds should look at as possible fallback options for center field.
This is the most likely option given that he is one of the club's top prospects. Billy Hamilton electrified the city, and all of baseball, when he came up in September. He was impressive, but it still remains to be seen as whether or not he is ready to be the team's center fielder on Opening Day.
In limited action, the 23-year-old hit .368/.429/.474 with two doubles and 13 stolen bases. He did not get caught stealing until his final attempt of the season. He stole four bases in his first career start.
As good as he was in the final month of the season, his numbers in Triple-A weren't great. Yes, he stole 75 bases with the Louisville Bats and 155 between two levels in 2012, with the latter breaking the record for most in one season. However, the rest of his numbers have plenty of room to improve.
Hamilton hit .256/.308/.343 with six home runs, 18 doubles and four triples in his first year in Triple-A. The switch-hitter is a career .280/.350/.378 hitter in five seasons in the minors.
Strikeouts were a huge concern in spring training. He struck out nine times in only 26 at-bats in the spring. He struck out 102 times this season in Louisville, which comes out to 20.2 percent of his at-bats. He struck out only four times in 19 at-bats in the majors.
It looks like strikeouts aren't as big of deal as they were in the spring. However, his batting average in Triple-A is somewhat concerning.
Hamilton would likely be the leadoff hitter, so a low average would remind Reds fans of Drew Stubbs.
Don't forget that the speedster is still adjusting to center field.
An argument can be made either way on Hamilton. Giving him the center field job would allow him to develop while in the majors, but letting him spend more time in the minors would give him time to work on both sides of his game.
There will be an enormous amount of pressure on Hamilton when he finally gets to the majors to play every day. Giving him more time in the minors could help him, but he is the most likely option to be Cincinnati's center fielder come Opening Day.
Denard Span, Washington Nationals
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Washington Nationals are willing to listen to offers for center fielder Denard Span. If that is indeed the case, the Reds should at least consider the outfielder as an option.
Cincinnati would have to make a trade in order to acquire a quality center fielder. It doesn't have the money to sign one in free agency, and Span may be the best available option on the trading block.
Which center fielder would give the Reds a better chance to win it all in 2014?
For starters, Span will make only $6.5 million this season and has a $9 million club option for 2015, via Baseball-Reference.com. Those are very reasonable salaries for a player of his caliber, and his salary for the next two seasons combined will probably be less than what Choo makes next season.
Span hit .279/.327/.380 with four home runs, 28 doubles and 11 triples this past season. He added 20 stolen bases. The 29-year-old has a career slash line of .283/.351/.387. He has 47 triples and 110 stolen bases in the first six years of his career.
The speedster has led the league in triples twice, and he has three different seasons with at least 20 stolen bases.
Cincinnati needs speed. Whether it goes with Hamilton or makes a deal for Span, they'd be adding serious speed to the lineup.
Washington is looking for a starting pitcher, and the Reds could interested in dealing a starter in the right circumstance. Homer Bailey's contract is up after next season, and Aroldis Chapman has a team-friendly player option for 2015. If the team can't lock up either pitcher, it could look to trade one of them.
Bailey made $5.35 million last season and is eligible for arbitration this winter, so he is going to get a nice raise. Bailey could be enough to land Span, but it would be tough to justify trading him even if he won't commit to beyond next season.
Span is a stud on defense as well. He and Jay Bruce would be a great duo in center and right field, and the pitchers would love having him behind them.
Washington probably wouldn't be open to dealing him unless they got a front-of-the-rotation starter, so the Reds would have to decide just how valuable Span is if they were interested.
*All stats are via MLB.com