Reds pick up options on Dunn and Co.
Hatteberg, Valentin join slugger in returning to Cincinnati
CINCINNATI -- The biggest offseason mystery remaining about the Reds was answered on Wednesday.The club decided to pick up left fielder Adam Dunn's $13 million option, which prevents the perennial 40-home run hitter from entering the free-agent market for the first time. Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky consulted with owner/CEO Bob Castellini before making the move, which has Dunn surpassing Ken Griffey Jr. ($12.5 million) as the highest paid player on the roster. Earlier this month, Castellini publicly made it clear he wanted Dunn back for another season. "Anytime you make a decision of this magnitude and this amount of money, the ownership will be included," Krivsky said. "In this case, we were on the same page." Dunn, who turns 28 on Nov. 9, batted .264 with 40 home runs and a career-high 106 RBIs in 152 games this season. Disappointed with his 2006 season, especially down the stretch, it was his goal at Spring Training to improve his all-around game. Dunn raised his average 30 points from last year and he struck out 165 times, compared to 194 in 2006. In the final two months, he batted .275 (41-for-149) compared to .176 last season. He walked over 100 times and had 40 homers for the fourth year in a row. With Cincinnati since 2001, Dunn could remain part of the only organization he's played for beyond next season. Krivsky didn't rule out trying to sign Dunn to an extension. Before the 2006 season, the two sides agreed to a two-year, $18.5 million deal. "We'll see," Krivsky said. "Now that we know he'll be around through '08, we'll stay open minded. Right now, the immediate concern has been met." Dunn was on a fishing vacation and couldn't be reached for comment. He was subject to myriad trade rumors most of his career in Cincinnati, but has more leverage in the upcoming season. Because his option was picked up, a full no-trade clause went in effect until June 15 -- with a limited no-trade provision intact for the remainder of 2008. Cincinnati also picked up the $1.85 million option on first baseman Scott Hatteberg and a $1.35 million option on catcher Javier Valentin. Reliever Eddie Guardado's $3.5 million option was not exercised. Since joining the Reds before the 2006 season, Hatteberg has been one of best hitters the past two seasons. The 37-year-old batted .310 with 10 homers and 47 RBIs in 116 games in 2007, yet his return was somewhat of a surprise even with his reasonable price. Prospect Joey Votto had a successful big league arrival in September, and both Votto and Hatteberg are left-handed hitters. Krivsky wasn't concerned about manager Dusty Baker finding enough playing time for both. "These things take care of themselves," Krivsky said. "He's a professional. He has leadership qualities and he's a quality offensive player and a good defensive player. It gives Dusty another weapon. You can't have enough good players." Hatteberg was pleased to know he was coming back to Cincinnati and looked forward to playing for Baker. "I'm happy. It's always good to be wanted," Hatteberg said from his home in Washington State. "I had Dusty as a manager in the [Arizona] Fall League before he went to San Francisco. He's such a motivator and there's already respect there. He'll be a huge help." Besides Votto, the Reds still have right-handed-hitting first baseman Jorge Cantu, who is arbitration eligible. Yet Hatteberg wasn't worried about getting at-bats. "I can't imagine that I'd be brought back and not play," Hatteberg said. "Having said that, I expect that Joey Votto will get to play. I can also be able to offer sage advice to younger players. I'd be happy to help anyone that wants to listen. I got great advice from older players. I can be a double threat, because I think I can still play. If you're playing well, you'll get a lot of playing time." Valentin batted .276 with two homers and 34 RBIs in 97 games. He's been the club's best pinch-hitter the past two seasons, but received increased playing time behind the plate in the second half as David Ross struggled. Both Valentin and Ross will likely compete for the starting job in Spring Training. Guardado, 37, returned from left elbow reconstruction surgery in August and had a 7.24 ERA over 15 games. But in his final 10 games from Aug. 22, he put together a 0.93 ERA and didn't allow a run over his final seven outings. Krivsky expressed hope that Guardado could still return at a lower rate next season. "We'll see if we can work out something that works for both of us," Krivsky said.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.