We've heard all offseason (ever since sweeps week, when the gang from Philadelphia bumped us out of our time slot) about the mutual interest between the Reds and Arthur Rhodes. It's been like a regular Ross-and-Rachel, Pam-and-Jim, Frasier-and-Niles will they/won't they plot arc.
In yesterday's FayChat, John Fay ratcheted up the tension, saying he thinks they "get it done." A deal, I assume. Fay has also suggested that the Reds would potentially have enough money on top of signing Arthur to throw $2M or so at someone like Edgar Renteria. However underwhelming, the Reds are capable of doing something during the remainder of the off-season. But would that something be significantly better than just signing Rhodes?
To the surprise of no one who's seen his name appear in a paragraph during the last several months, Rhodes is 41. He's been sterling in his two year tenure with the Reds, lowering his ERA, WHIP and BB-rate last season over his 2009 line. The man knows how to pitch. He also knows how to just "be." I don't think there are many opposed, at least in theory, to giving Rhodes a one-year contract. His age will eventually catch up with him, as it does us all, but one more season of 30-60 innings, which he's pitched during the last three seasons to a sub-3.00 ERA, reasonable expectation - fairly low risk. To boot, Dusty has been generally prudent with not overworking his veterans.
The question turns to how necessary Rhodes is to next year's bullpen - and what price his services should command. Rhodes is probably asking around $3-4M, but the opportunity cost in signing Rhodes also might be an upgrade at LF or SS. This hypothetical upgrade looks less likely by the day, but there's still the patented Jocketty late-offseason plot twist or stunt casting to consider.
Next year's bullpen will almost certainly include Francisco Cordero, Nick Masset and Logan Ondrusek. Bill Bray is a good bet to be one of the lefties and Jose Arredondo, with a healthy and productive spring, is probably in there too. For the remaining two spots, Jared Burton, Daryl Thompson, Jordan Smith and Sam LeCure are among the leading candidates. And that's all before considering Rhodes (or Chapman). While I hope they'll think better of stowing the Cubandolero in the bullpen, the Reds may also be taking a hard look at Dontrelle Willis and Phillipe Valliquette from the left side. Willis seems to have been signed, in part, as a hedge against Rhodes health and free agency.
All that by way of saying, the Reds can probably staff an adequate bullpen without Arthur Rhodes. The Scholar, if healthy, would undoubtedly improve the state of affairs. While somewhat crude when evaluating relief pitchers, FanGraphs WAR shows he'd be worth a $3.7M contract (based on 2010 free agent values) if he repeated last year's performance. He'd also probably make the other relievers cooler and looser by proximity. But should the Reds give Rhodes what he's asking for, given the quality of the league-minimum replacements already in-house and potential to spend elsewhere?
The answer depends largely on what the Reds can do and how much they need to do it. They may have reached the Orlando Cabrera phase of the off-season a little sooner this year.