'Stormy' Monday opens Winter Meetings
Reds close to deal to bring back dependable Weathers
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- It appears it will be a "Stormy" forecast in the back end of the Reds bullpen again.The pitcher carrying the nickname -- free-agent reliever David Weathers -- was close to a two-year deal worth $5 million with Cincinnati on Monday. "We're not in a position to make an announcement yet," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said from his hotel suite at the annual Winter Meetings. There are still a few things that need to be talked about. We feel good about things right now but it's not a done deal yet." "We still have to work out a few issues," Weathers' agent, Dan Horwits, said. "There's still some work to be done." Weathers, who could not be reached for comment, was 4-4 with a 3.54 ERA and a team-leading 12 saves in 67 games during 2006. The 37-year-old began the season as the closer and lost the role when he endured a bumpy stretch late in the first half. But he was stellar in a setup role after the All-Star break, posted a 1.64 ERA over his final 29 appearances and returned to closing games after Eddie Guardado was injured. "He can pitch anywhere out of the bullpen," Reds manager Jerry Narron said. "His experience is tremendous, especially with the younger guys. I like that he's not afraid to pitch in the ninth inning but he's not going to be insulted if he has to pitch the seventh and eighth." For Weathers, a 16-year veteran, Cincinnati's proximity to his hometown of Loretto, Tenn., has helped push the Reds ahead of other suitors. The Giants and Phillies had been rumored as contenders for his services, but Weathers was willing to take less money to remain with the Reds. "We're happy to have [Weathers] if everything works out," Krivsky said. "We've been trying to sign him all winter. At various times, we weren't talking that much, but once we got going and [Mike] Stanton signed, we had already had conversations with Weathers up to that point." Given the parameters of the potential deal the sides have in place, Weathers' salary would increase should he become the primary closer. Stanton and Weathers are expected to begin next season sharing the ninth inning, with others possibly getting opportunities. Other than progress on the Weathers front, it was a quiet day for the Reds on the first day of the Winter Meetings inside Disney World's Swan and Dolphin Hotel.
Krivsky continues to seek a right-handed bat for the club, especially now that Rich Aurilia has officially severed ties with Cincinnati. The free-agent infielder was signed to a two-year, $8 million contract by his original team, the Giants, on Monday.The chances of Cincinnati retaining Aurilia diminished when it signed shortstop Alex Gonzalez last month, leaving no open starting spots in the infield. Aurilia was offered arbitration on Friday, which means the Reds will receive a supplemental first-round pick and another draft pick as compensation. "Rich did a nice job for us," Krivsky said. "Obviously, it's a bit of a void, and we'll have to try and fill it as best we can. He decided to take the multi-year proposal and move on. We wish him well. We appreciate what he did for us while he was here." On the pitching front, the Reds believe they have four rotation spots set with Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo, Kyle Lohse and Eric Milton, so the team isn't expected to vie for any of the top- or middle-level starters on the market. Unless an acquisition is made, Elizardo Ramirez, Matt Belisle, prospect Phil Dumatrait and top prospect Homer Bailey will battle for the fifth spot in Spring Training. Krivsky said that lefty Brandon Claussen, who underwent arthroscopic shoulder surgery in August, wasn't expected to be ready by Opening Day. Another injured starter, free agent Paul Wilson, could be invited to camp as a non-roster player with a Minor League contract, even though he has not pitched in a game since June 2005. Similar offers could be extended to rehabbing free-agent relievers Kent Mercker and Guardado.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.