LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Reds would like to upgrade offensively and find a potential leadoff hitter. But as often happens, progress was slow out of the blocks Monday on their first day of the Winter Meetings.
"A lot of talking," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said. "We've talked to two or three clubs by phone. No meetings yet. We've met with an agent. We'll probably meet with two or three more the next couple of days."
Jocketty acknowledged his foray into the free-agent market is likely over for the offseason after signing three players to two-year deals over the past month -- catcher Brayan Pena, utility player Skip Schumaker and lefty reliever Manny Parra.
"The only way we'd be able to do anything significant is if we were able to move some payroll to do something," Jocketty said. "I'm not sure if that will happen or not."
There are several impediments between the Reds holding talks and making a deal. Jocketty has been adverse to parting with top prospects, especially since the organization was depleted the past two winters in trades for Shin-Soo Choo and Mat Latos.
"We're not as deep as we were at the higher levels. We've got significant younger players at the lower levels that in a year or so will emerge to Double-A or Triple-A," Jocketty said. "That has been an obstacle. We've just had very few matches with clubs. And the financial part of it is always a problem. You have to be real creative."
Cincinnati has two potential trade chips, including one that takes up payroll space in second baseman Brandon Phillips -- who has four years and $50 million left on his contract. The other is pitcher Homer Bailey, who is third-year arbitration eligible and able to become a free agent after the 2014 season.
Jocketty was hopeful that Bailey could be signed to a multiyear deal, but admitted it would be a challenge.
"What's probably difficult is the salaries have escalated and trying to keep that within what we can afford will be difficult," Jocketty said. "We're going to attempt it and hopefully make some progress on it."
Teams have not yet called about Bailey.
"I think not until some of these free agents are [signed] would probably be my guess," Jocketty said.
As for addressing the leadoff situation, the Reds don't expect the free agent Choo to return. Prospect Billy Hamilton will get the chance to earn the job in center field. The Yankees have Brett Gardner, who can be a free agent after the 2014 season.
While rules prevent Jocketty from admitting interest in Gardner, he was interested in a stop-gap that could bridge between Choo and Hamilton.
"Probably more short term," Jocketty said.