With an established closer signed, finding an outfielder who can play LF and/or lead-off remains the most important off-season shopping list item for Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty. John Heyman of CBS Sports has a solid article laying out the current status of the OF market. He talks about the teams who are looking for OF and ranks a list of the available players. He also briefly discusses which teams might be interested in which players.

To catch you up with current events: (1) Yesterday, the Atlanta Braves signed free agent centerfielder B.J. Upton to a $75 million/5–year contract, and (2) this afternoon, the Washington Harpers acquired Denard Span, bromantic favorite of many here in the Nation, in a trade for an A-league pitcher. According to Mark Sheldon, the player the Twins received from the Harpers isn’t major-league ready. Given that, I’m surprised that the Reds hadn’t made a stronger offer than that for Span. Maybe they didn’t see Span as a significant overall upgrade to Drew Stubbs. But that’s water under Brent Spence now.

The Reds have steadily increased payroll from $73 million to $88 million over the past four seasons. A straight-line projection for 2013 would put total salary around $92-93 million.

With the salary the Reds already have tied up in 2013 contracts ($75 million) and expected arbitration awards ($18 million) it appears they have little extra salary room to chase a significant free agent OF, including Ryan Ludwick. Yet, John Fay reports that the Reds are talking to Ludwick about rejoining the club. So there’s that.

Unfortunately, the left fielder may have Ludwhacked himself out of the Reds mid-sized market with his rebound 2012 season. Maybe Reds ownership will be more aggressive in boosting total payroll. Or maybe Jocketty has some slick Jedi cost-saving moves up his Hawaiian shirt sleeve.

But as you contemplate the nightmare of Dusty Baker managing Aroldis Chapman on an innings limit, don’t overlook the possibility of a trade – maybe a big one. One of our friends over at Red Reporter speculated on the acquisition of OF/lead-off hitter, Alex Gordon/drool/ or 3B Mike Moustakas from the Royals by trading Homer Bailey and a top minor league pitcher. They conclude, probably correctly, that Gordon is ultimately too expensive and Moustakas too left-handed.

And it’s hard to see the Reds trading away one of their top four starting pitchers, given how diligently they have accumulated the arms. But that magnitude of a trade wouldn’t totally surprise me.

UPDATE: John Fay just posted that the free agent OF market may be shifting toward the buyers, which could make it more likely the Reds will re-sign Ryan Ludwick. Fay guesses the Reds could offer the left fielder $13 million/2 years. But he also notes the Reds may be more focused on finding a lead-off hitter. Shin Soo Choo is an attractive trade target because he gets on base (.381 career OBP), hits for power, plays Gold Glove defense and swipes twenty bases, too.