Center field is the only starting position up for grabs in Cincinnati, so the Reds should try to fill that hole with a premier free agent. However, the players that the team has been linked to would have to play out of position for a year in order to sign with the club.
There are two players who would fit this description: Shin-Soo Choo and Carlos Beltran.
Choo did fairly well on offense as the leadoff man in Cincinnati this past season. He finished second to Joey Votto in on-base percentage, as he and Votto were the only two National League players who walked at least 100 times in 2013, and he led the league in times hit by pitch.
He has plenty of suitors. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeted that Choo is high on the Detroit Tigers' radar as they look for a left-handed bat. The Texas Rangers and the New York Yankees have also been linked to Choo. With Jacoby Ellsbury off the market, Choo may be the top outfielder on the market.
The Reds would have to be willing to outbid big-market teams in order to keep the 31-year-old. He did a good job leading off, but is he worth the nine-figure contract that he is likely going to get?
He certainly had some deficiencies, offensively and defensively. Take a look at his 2013 splits:
He still posted fairly good numbers overall, but it would be tough to justify throwing out more than $100 million for a player who struggles so mightily against southpaws (and on defense).
Choo's agent, Scott Boras, wants a deal that tops what Jayson Werth got a few years ago, via ESPN's Jerry Crasnick. He will be seeking at least five years.
If the Reds don't believe they could land Choo, they could turn their attention to Carlos Beltran. The club has shown interest in the veteran, according to the Puerto Rican newspaper Primera Hora.
The 36-year-old hit .296/.339/.491 with 24 home runs, 30 doubles and 84 RBI this past season. In the postseason, he hit .268/.388/.464 with two home runs, three doubles and a triple with 15 RBI.
Beltran is known for his postseason heroics, which is intriguing to Cincinnati. However, at his age, he may not be able to play center field for a full year.
He is a former Cardinal, but he is not one of Jocketty's players.
Beltran is looking for a three-year deal. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that Beltran has a three-year, $48 million offer on the table from an unknown team. Beltran would be a cheaper option in terms of money and years compared to Choo. However, C. Trent Rosecrans of The Cincinnati Enquirer tweeted that Jocketty doesn't expect Beltran in Cincinnati next season.
Neither player would be ideal for center. However, signing a premier outfielder for the top of the lineup would help the offense next season and they could shift to left in 2015. Both players are expected to sign elsewhere, so the Reds have to decide just how much they like either player.