It's worth asking, after the Reds traded for an elite reliever in Sean Marshall, whether they need to go get another late-innings arm. After all, with Marshall, they can construct a bullpen something like this:
- Jordan Smith/Andrew Brackman/Josh Judy/Kanekoa Texeira/Luis Atilano
It's possible Masset has been permanently downgraded in the bullpen and I'm being too generous here. And it's hard to get enthused about that bottom rung (though when is this not the case with bottom rungs?), but this could be a decent bullpen - especially if one of the minor move signings like Brackman or Judy makes good on some of their leftover upside. And though I have no interest in re-visiting this horse corpse, I don't think Walt and Dusty have put out of their heads the idea of shoving Aroldis Chapman back in there.
The Reds, however, have said they're going to use Marshall in a set-up role. And if they can get a closer without precluding the ability to make at least one other move, they should. Not because they absolutely need someone who has experience finishing games, but because a closer-caliber reliever would improve the depth and quality of the bullpen. They're trying to win now, aren't they?
With Andrew Bailey in Boston and seven Reds already packaged in trade, free agency would seem the more appealing route. Re-signing Cordero has been the safe money since the end of the season and not really a bad idea on its face. Cordero had one of the best years of his career on the merits of preventing base runners and is one of only a handful of proven closers still available. He's also a fun guy to have around, a mentor in the bullpen and a pillar in the community.
On the other hand, he's 37 next season and re-signing him would cause the team to forgo a supplemental pick in the 2012 draft. There might be a reliever with more upside - who might even be cheaper - that would allow the Reds to take a third pick before the second round in the June draft.
The Angels, Twins and Dodgers figure to be the only other remaining teams looking with any active interest for a closer - and those three may not even be looking very hard. That makes this a buyers market - and Walt's decision to wait it out at least accidentally pretty shrewd. But it also means there aren't that many options from which to choose.
So what free agents or potentially available trade targets might make sense for the Reds, other than CoCo?
- Ryan Madson: The market may have collapsed for Madson and he's been christened the "the loser of the offseason" over at FanGraphs, while MLB Trade Rumors thinks the Angels and Reds are the only two teams remaining that would offer him multi-year deals. The Reds probably aren't in any condition to get in a bidding war with the Angels, though it's possible DiPoto hits a spending cap at some point and Walt could get creative with the contract. Madson is the best free agent reliever still out there, so is there any baseball ops reason for the Reds not to sign him at a deflated price, unless it still eats up the remaining payroll to do so? Madson will be 31 next season and would bring much-needed chair-kicking intensity to the 'pen.
- Joakim Soria: Soria has standing up on the trade block so long he's made David Blaine look like an organ grinder (NOTE: Come up with better turn of phrase later). The Royals don't seem to have much urgency to move him with years of control left and competitive tokenism to consider. While his contract wouldn't be much more expensive - it at all - than Cordero or Madson would be, he'd require another payload of prospects that might make for a pretty depressing Red Reporter Community Prospect Ranking next month.
- Kerry Wood: Wood would make a serviceable closer or closer mentor at a discount from Madson. But I think there's an unspoken agreement in baseball not to reunite Baker and Wood, if for no other reason than to avoid the torrent of wisecracks and terrible sportswriting. There's also something creepy about aping the 2011 Cubs, though it might as well be their bullpen if you're going to do it.
- Brad Lidge: Lidge would be a risky sign, given his injury history and chronic control problems. But he could also be a considerable bargain. And there should be no need to guarantee him the closing job outright.
- Brandon League: League would be another rental that would raise the hackles of anyone who hated the Marshall trade. But if the Mariners are eager to get something for him before the deadline this year, he could be had without a busy market ratcheting up the price. Though he's not a strikeout machine, he was excellent last season, walking just 1.5 batters per nine innings while pitching to a sub-3.00 ERA.