Jocketty sets priorities for buying season
Search for leadoff bat tops list; Takahashi remains an option
CINCINNATI -- With the General Managers Meetings taking place now in Orlando, Fla., it's a week in which Reds GM Walt Jocketty is putting out feelers and laying the groundwork for potential deals.The Reds, coming off a National League Central title and featuring a roster that's expected to have low turnover, aren't a club with a long list of needs. Addressing the top of the order remains one of the front office's main priorities. "We've been talking to clubs and looking for a potential leadoff hitter, and maybe someone to improve our bench," Jocketty said by phone on Tuesday night. "There's not a great deal to do, but we're talking a lot. "Generally, we talk to clubs before we come down and follow up here with discussions. We, hopefully, finish what we start [here] at the Winter Meetings. I don't know if we'll find a [leadoff hitter] or not." Jocketty has also focused on negotiating deals with his club's own free agents. The Reds re-signed catcher Ramon Hernandez to a one-year, $3 million contract on Monday, and talks are ongoing with Arthur Rhodes' agent in an effort to bring back the left-handed reliever. As a possible alternative to Rhodes, the Reds last week claimed lefty Hisanori Takahashi off unconditional waivers after he was let go by the Mets. The Reds and Takahashi were unable to get a deal done within the five-day limit, and the left-hander became a free agent on Friday. Takahashi was believed to be seeking a three-year contract worth $3 million to $4 million annually. The Reds are still open to trying to sign him. "You've got to keep your options open," Jocketty said about Cincinnati's lefty reliever situation. "We talked to his people and other clubs about possible trades in case we aren't able to bring Arthur back." So far, the Reds have not yet had any serious talks with arbitration-eligible first baseman Joey Votto. "We've talked to them but haven't made a proposal," Jocketty said. "We expect that they wanted to wait until after next week." Votto is a candidate for the National League Most Valuable Player Award, which will be revealed on Monday. In other news, Jocketty is among GMs in favor of recommending to MLB Commissioner Allan H. "Bud" Selig that the current playoff system be expanded to allow for a second Wild Card team in each league. "It's still an idea being discussed -- it would be good for the game if we get more teams involved," Jocketty said. "We'll see." The GM Meetings conclude on Thursday with their inclusion in the final quarterly Owners Meetings of the year.