Reds poised for trade noise
Kullman plans on talks this week
By Marc Lancaster
Post staff reporter
By the end of the business day Wednesday, everyone in baseball was well aware Brad Kullman is making the calls for the Reds these days.
The interim general manager said he spoke with 17 teams Tuesday and the remaining 12 teams Wednesday, trying to get a feel for who might be looking to deal and who's content to stand pat with spring training just three weeks away.
"About half the teams aren't too interested in talking, you can tell," Kullman said Wednesday night at the La Salle Sports Stag. "But there's about a dozen teams that want to talk."
Kullman figures to have at least some discussions with all of them in the coming days, particularly after he emerges from a couple of days of meetings with the baseball operations staff at Great American Ball Park. Today and Friday, at least, all of the Reds' top evaluators will be on hand to, in Kullman's words, "lay everything out" for the coming weeks.
There already are trade offers floating around, including one reportedly quashed by Dan O'Brien last week that would have sent Austin Kearns to Cleveland in a three-way deal, with the Boston Red Sox delivering right-hander Matt Clement to Cincinnati. As the Red Sox and Indians struggle to complete a swap they have been working on for at least a week, Kullman indicated there's still a chance the Reds could get involved in some variation of the aforementioned scenario.
The only question is whether it would be a good deal for the Reds. While the 31-year-old Clement has a live arm that would help the Reds' rotation, his numbers dropped off significantly last year in his first season with the Red Sox. Though his 13-6 record was nice, his ERA ballooned from 3.68 with the Cubs in 2004 to 4.57 with Boston. At the same time, his strikeouts per nine innings dove from a career-high 9.45 in 2004 to 6.88 last year.
The most daunting number of all, though, is Clement's salary. With performance incentives earned last season, he'll be due nearly $10 million in 2006 and at least $9.5 million in 2007, the last year of his current contract. Even if Boston included some cash in the deal, that would still be quite a hit for the Reds to take, considering Kearns will make only $1.85 million this season.
"That won't stop us," Kullman said of a potential salary disparity. "If there's a deal there to be made, I feel confident we can find a way to do it. It's just making sure that it's the right one."
The Reds do have some money floating around, in the form of the cash they saved by trading Sean Casey and his $8.5 million salary to Pittsburgh last month. But the Reds also have a couple of pricey arbitration cases to deal with. The team must find a way to close a $1.85 million gap with Adam Dunn and an $850,000 gap with Felipe Lopez, preferably avoiding a hearing with both.
Kullman said no progress had been made with either player as of Wednesday night, but the team would continue negotiating. He said the Reds would discuss multi-year deals with both players and would like to reach one with Dunn in particular.
"I don't want to go to hearings with them," Kullman said. "That being said, I think we have good cases if we have to. But it's a terrible process and we don't want to do it."
Whatever happens internally and externally before the Reds officially hire a general manager in the next three or four weeks, the team seems poised to at least make plenty of noise. But even Kullman can't predict whether anything significant will actually happen.
"We'll see what makes sense to pursue, and we might try and pursue some things," he said. "What comes from that, I don't know."