Closer checked off, but list remains for Reds
Team eyes left fielder, backup infielder with camp next month
CINCINNATI -- While all still remains silent from the Reds on the expected signing of future closer Ryan Madson to a one-year contract that will guarantee him $8.5 million, there is a significant question remaining.Is there any money left to fill the other holes? The answer is probably not much. Earlier in the offseason, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty identified adding an extra left fielder and a backup infielder that can play shortstop as being needs. They weren't considered as high of a priority as improving the rotation and fortifying the bullpen, but the GM has since traded for starter Mat Latos and setup man Sean Marshall and landed Madson. Jocketty said he could not comment on the Madson situation. Madson is believed to be taking his physical next week, which is required before the deal can become official. Assuming that's completed, he will have checked off the top of his list. Now, it's time to tackle the rest. "We're working on both of them," Jocketty said Friday evening from Los Angeles. "Hopefully, by next week I'd like to have both of them resolved."
Little has changed with the list of available free-agent outfielders since the New Year began. Many are familiar and have different positives or negatives.Ryan Ludwick, 33, batted only .237 last season, but could bring power off of the bench. He's got a fan in manager Dusty Baker, who likes his bat. However, it's also been a few years since Ludwick crushed 37 home runs and 113 RBIs in 2008 for St. Louis and drove in 97 runs for the Cardinals in 2009. Like Ludwick, Rick Ankiel was once in the employ of Jocketty on the Cardinals. Ankiel, 32, who batted .239 with a .296 on-base percentage last season for the Nationals, hasn't batted above .240 since 2008, the year he also had 25 homers. He's also been with three different clubs the past two seasons, but can play well defensively, and as a former pitcher, has a good arm. Jocketty confirmed that the club had interest in both Ludwick and Ankiel. If Reds fans blinked in 2006, they likely missed the cup of coffee Cody Ross sipped in Cincinnati that season when he was acquired and appeared in just two games. They were spaced out over several weeks, because Ross, now 31, was hit on the hand by a pitch in the first game and went on the disabled list with a fracture. He went on to average about 14 homers in the seven seasons since, including a career-high 24 for the Marlins in 2009.
Ross is also postseason-tested and was a big part of the Giants' World Series run in 2010 with three homers in the NLCS. The Reds have held talks with Ross' agent, but he could still be too high priced after he made $6.3 million in 2011."It might be out of our price range," Jocketty said of Ross. "He was looking for a multiyear deal. We're not in position to do that." Pat Burrell, 35, had a resurgent 2010 for those same Giants after being dumped by the Rays, but went backwards in 2011. Burrell batted only .230 with seven homers in 92 games last season, and he isn't gifted defensively. Kosuke Fukudome brings a left-handed bat to the table and the ability to play all three outfield spots. Fukudome, who turns 35 in April, has been a .260 hitter with a .361 on-base percentage in four Major League seasons since moving from Japan, but he isn't as much of a home run threat. Then there are the likes of the speedy Juan Pierre, former Red Austin Kearns, Conor Jackson and J.D. Drew, who also played for Jocketty in St. Louis from 1998-2003. Drew would have to take a serious pay cut after making $14 million each of the last five seasons for the Red Sox. "We'd like a guy that can play more than just left field," Jocketty said of the general market. "We'd like to have a guy that will fit well with the club, have a veteran influence, a veteran leadership type of guy and be a character guy." On the trade front, there could be some possibilities, as well. Gerardo Parra unexpectedly became a fourth outfielder for the D-backs after Arizona signed Jason Kubel to be its left fielder. Parra batted .292 with a .357 on-base percentage last season, but the D-backs maintained they planned to keep Parra after acquiring Kubel. Then there is Rockies lefty-hitting outfielder Seth Smith, who was linked to the Reds in trade rumors earlier in the offseason. Smith batted .284 with 15 homers and a .347 OBP last season for Colorado. Trades might be more difficult for the Reds at this point, because their depth has already been reduced greatly. A total of seven players, mostly young prospects, were moved to acquire Latos and Marshall. It gets murkier with veteran shortstops, where there are very slim pickings. It got even slimmer on Friday when Jack Wilson and the Braves agreed to a one-year contract. The Reds already have rookie Zach Cozart poised to be the regular and have Paul Janish, who has proven more dependable with his glove than his bat. There are no plans to bring back free agent Edgar Renteria, who remains on the market. So do Ryan Theriot and former Red Orlando Cabrera.
At 32, Theriot is the youngest of the free-agent shortstops. A .282 lifetime hitter with a .344 on-base percentage, he only has 17 career homers in nearly 2,900 at-bats, and after making $3.3 million last season for the Cardinals, could be affordable.With Spring Training about five weeks away, the scramble is on for players looking for jobs before camps opens. Like the Reds did with Madson in getting him at a bargain price, they can always wait it out and the let the market come to them -- for both an outfielder and infielder. For a team on a tight budget, there's no better way to go.