CINCINNATI -- There is no doubt that several teams -- the known and unknown -- pursuing free-agent outfielder Shin-Soo Choo are finding out what the Reds learned last year during their due diligence.
There is no better leadoff hitter currently in the game that reaches base better than Choo. And that could very well be the reason he floats above the Reds' price threshold.
The question currently without an answer is how willing are the Reds to meet Choo's expected high salary demand -- one that has been widely speculated to reach $100 million with agent Scott Boras driving the train in negotiations. Would they pay an eight-figure annual salary? It would be difficult, but not impossible, to fathom Cincinnati going that high for Choo.
There are other larger market teams that wouldn't blink as much at such a price. Among the teams linked to Choo this winter have been the Yankees, Mets, Mariners, Tigers and Rangers.
On the other hand, the Yankees might be more inclined to pursue free agent Carlos Beltran, who is older at 36 and could take less years for a commitment. Seattle might prefer another free-agent leadoff hitter in Jacoby Ellsbury, who has regional ties being from Oregon. Texas just took a hit to its payroll by trading for first baseman Prince Fielder. Like the Reds, the Mets could pass on going up to nine figures for Choo.
The Reds have prospect Billy Hamilton waiting in the wings to potentially replace Choo, but they would prefer to bring the young speedster along a little more slowly. Hamilton has already proven he can run and play defense in center field, but hitting still remains a question mark. Even if he were wildly successful at the plate, it would still be a lot to ask of Hamilton to produce at Choo-like levels in reaching safely.
Cincinnati perhaps adds some help behind Hamilton in the expected signing of utility player Skip Schumaker, a lefty hitter that is strong vs. right-handed pitching.