Mark Duncan/Associated Press
On the surface, losing Shin-Soo Choo should hurt Cincinnati's offense. However, is it a devastating loss for the Reds?
It will be tough for the team to replace a leadoff hitter who reached base more than 42 percent of the time. The Reds are hoping that rookie Billy Hamilton can at least put up respectable numbers in his first full season in the majors, but they don't expect him to be able to put up a .400 OBP.
The center fielder got off to a slow start at Triple-A last season, but he made enough adjustments to put up a slash line of .256/.308/.343. He has a career slash line of .280/.350/.343 in five seasons in the minors.
Hamilton may not get on base as much as Choo, but his speed is going to put pressure on opposing pitchers. He stole 395 bases in the minors and stole 13 bases after being called up in September. His speed can get inside of a pitcher's head and possibly lead to mistake pitches to the heart of the order.
Early on, Hamilton hasn't had much trouble adjusting to the majors. He hit .368/.429/.474 in his first month in the majors last year, and he is hitting .313/.450/.375 during spring training in 2014.
The speedster has six stolen bases and four walks this spring, and he has yet to get caught stealing or strikeout. That's pretty impressive.
Speed will be one area that Hamilton will be an upgrade over Choo, and his defense in center will be the other. Choo moved from right field to center before last season and had a rough time throughout the year. Although he has a terrific arm, he lacked range in the outfield. Hamilton will be able to cover a lot more ground, which will help a great pitching staff.
Hamilton probably won't have the offensive numbers that Choo put up last year, but the youngster has a lot of potential. Even with a rookie leading off, Cincinnati's roster is talented enough to get back to the postseason.
With the speedster waiting for a chance to show what he can do, the Reds were able to save some money by letting Choo walk.
Cincinnati's payroll is above $100 million again, so there wasn't much room for the club to make a serious run at Choo. The lack of money forced the team to let Choo and pitcher Bronson Arroyo leave this offseason. However, letting those players walk freed up some money for the future.
Had the Reds re-signed Choo, it is unlikely that they would have been able to sign pitcher Homer Bailey to a six-year, $105 million deal. Even after handing out a big contract to Bailey, the team still has room to look at locking up pitchers Johnny Cueto and/or Mat Latos to a long-term deal.
Young pitching is more valuable than an aging outfielder. The Reds made a decision to put their money into pitching, and they hope they are rewarded with a big season out of Hamilton.
Letting Choo walk may hurt the Reds for a year or two, but the club should get the better of this deal in the future.