Notes: Cordero should ease minds
Players excited about reliable addition to back of bullpen
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- The Reds making a big splash in the free agent market? Their players can get used to that.
While some circles have criticized the Reds for overspending, several players on Cincinnati's roster were impressed that the team was thinking big with the addition of closer Francisco Cordero. On Wednesday, Cordero was formally signed to a four-year, $46 million contract with a $12 million club option for a fifth year.
"This is something I've wanted since I've been with the Reds," said left fielder Adam Dunn, who debuted with Cincinnati in 2001. "That's what [owner/CEO Bob] Castellini has preached and what's he's been doing. He doesn't want to rebuild. He wants to win now. He's shown it. Our job now is to go out and do it. It's what we've waited on since I've been here."
The 72-90 finish for fifth place in the National League Central gave the Reds their seventh straight losing season. The team rarely made bold expenditures in the market during that span.
Cordero saved 44 of 51 games for the Brewers last season and had a career-high 49 saves with the Rangers in 2004. He's also a two-time All-Star.
"Any time you get a guy with 40-plus saves, it's never a bad thing," reliever Jared Burton said. "It can only help us."
It was a very steep price to pay for upgrading the bullpen -- it's the most guaranteed money ever given to a reliever and the biggest free agent signing in club history. But those asked felt it was money well spent, because it addressed the club's primary weakness last season.
"I knew we'd try for bullpen help, but you only heard about A-Rod and [Johan] Santana," catcher David Ross said. "I don't think the Reds got enough recognition for doing a big signing. It's a huge, huge, thing for us to get someone for the back of the bullpen. It's nice to see the Reds go and do a really big pickup for our biggest need. It's nice to see them willing to go the extra mile."
David Weathers will move to an unspecified setup role along with Burton, who emerged as a solid option in his rookie year with a 2.51 ERA in 47 games -- including a 1.83 ERA after the All-Star break.
"As long as Weathers and I pitch the way we did last year and with the addition of Cordero, if we have a lead after six, we should be in good shape," Burton said.
Rotation ace Aaron Harang believes he'll feel better handing over a lead next season. Last season, Reds relievers were 23-31 and notched only 34 saves in 61 chances (33 by Weathers). The club allowed 123 eighth-inning runs.
"It shows us that we're definitely trying to improve from last year," Harang said. "The eighth inning killed us last season. If we can get someone to take over the eighth and get it to a solid closer, that's huge for us. I'm trying to go nine innings all the time and not have to give the closer work. But it makes me more at ease to know on the days I don't go nine, I can go seven or eight innings and have the bullpen come in and shore it up."
Breaking it down: The Associated Press revealed the breakdown of Cordero's contract. The 32-year-old will receive a $500,000 signing bonus and be paid $8.5 million in 2008. The salary jumps to $12 million for each of the final three seasons with full no-trade protection for the first two seasons and a limited no-trade clause after that.
Thoughts on future? Dunn is heading into the option year of a contract that will pay him $13 million this season. Eligible to be a first-time free agent next winter, he was asked Thursday if aggressive acquisitions like Cordero's would make him more open to signing an extension with Cincinnati. There have yet to be any talks, he indicated.
"Hopefully, at some point we'll get to that," Dunn said. "I'm enjoying the offseason and I'll deal with it when it comes."
Cueto update: Through six Dominican Winter League starts, Reds pitching prospect Johnny Cueto is 4-1 with a 2.84 ERA and 31 hits in 31 2/3 innings for Aguilas Cibaenas. Cueto has walked seven and struck out 37.
I am surprised that the Reds have yet to to have any talks with Dunn about an extension. They need to sort that out if they are considering trading Hamilton. Cueto seems to be doing well in the Winter Leagues, and I am glad the team is excited about Cordero.