CINCINNATI -- What remains on the free-agent market for starting pitchers is picked over and less than impressive.

Seeking a rotation boost late into the offseason, the Reds attempted to go in a different direction and turned to a former starter turned reliever who was coming off the best season of his career.

On Wednesday, the club made the signing of left-hander Jeremy Affeldt official once he passed his physical. Affeldt received a one-year contract worth $3 million, plus incentives that could add up to $1 million.

Used solely as a reliever for the Rockies last season, the 28-year-old Affeldt was 4-3 with a 3.51 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 59 innings over 75 appearances. He had a 1.69 ERA in seven postseason games.

However, Affeldt began his career as a starter with the Royals in 2002.

"He's very versatile and has done both," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "But the idea of his coming over here is to compete for a spot in our starting rotation this spring. We're really excited about having him. Our scouts have really liked his stuff for a long time."

Affeldt had fielded other offers this winter, but those were for bullpen roles. He told his agent he'd like to try starting again, if possible. When the Reds said they wanted him to compete for a rotation spot, they jumped to the top of his list.

"My heart skipped a beat when they offered that deal," Affeldt said at Great American Ball Park on Wednesday afternoon. "I went with my heart there."

"When we heard it was something he wanted to do, that was music to our ears," Krivsky said. "We were looking at the board with the free-agent pitchers that were out there [and said], 'Isn't it surprising that Jeremy Affeldt is still out there as a free agent right now?'"

In 42 games and 216 1/3 innings as a starter, Affeldt was 8-17 with a 5.41 ERA, 127 strikeouts and 96 walks. In 244 games as a reliever, he was 17-10 with a 4.21 ERA and 18 saves. The Royals dealt him to the Rockies on July 31, 2006, and he became a full-time reliever.

"There were some situations that dictated I bounce back and forth," Affeldt said of his time in Kansas City. "For me, I didn't feel like the door was closed on that position."

Affeldt's numbers as a starter aren't pretty, and this move carries some risk. But it's lessened by being just a one-year deal. Plus, the Reds avoided giving a multiyear contract to a potentially less than stellar veteran left on the market. On the flip side, if Affeldt is successful as a starter, it could really pay off for him next winter as a free agent again.

Cincinnati's rotation currently carries just two established starters in Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo. Matt Belisle, Homer Bailey, Edinson Volquez, Matt Maloney and Johnny Cueto will join Affeldt to battle for the three remaining spots.

Krivsky didn't buy the suggestion that his rotation lacked depth.

Hot Stove

"They don't have the track record yet, but they have stuff," Krivsky said of his back-of-the-rotation candidates. "They have the mental makeup. They've got the physical ability to do it. We're talking about guys that have tremendous stuff, and it's going to be fun watching them pitch this spring."

If Affeldt doesn't make the rotation, he'll slide into a late-inning role in the bullpen that already has David Weathers, Jared Burton and closer Francisco Cordero on the back end.

"We'll see how it goes in Spring Training," Krivsky said. "We've got confidence with his stuff and mental makeup and going through the postseason last year with the Rockies. He's our kind of guy."

Considering he pitched in the high altitude at Colorado's Coors Field, the smallish nature of Great American Ball Park didn't make Affeldt blink before signing. He knows his ability to keep the ball down will make or break his chance at success.

"If you can pitch on the moon, you can pitch [anywhere]," Affeldt said. "Coors, that was the greatest opportunity to learn how to pitch anywhere."

Affeldt has a 92-94 mph fastball and a curveball in his repertoire, but since he's been a reliever, he lacks the third pitch most starters desire. He already has talked with pitching coach Dick Pole and hopes to add a changeup after camp opens next month.

Not knowing he'd be a starter until late in the winter, Affeldt will have less time to prepare his arm for the rigors of the job.

No problem, Affeldt believes.

"I'm not too far out of the game. It was a year and a half ago when I was starting," he said. "Being in my [bullpen] role, I threw a lot. I maybe didn't get in the game, but I was hot, so my arm was built up for endurance because I threw a lot. I'm not too concerned about it. I've done this role before. I know what I have to do to get ready."