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12/08/08 9:58 PM EST
Jocketty downplays deal speculation
Hernandez, Rhodes could bolster team's depth
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
LAS VEGAS -- When it comes to trade talks at the Winter Meetings, general managers try to say as little as possible. You almost have to study facial expressions just to gauge any shreds of accuracy. A rumor began circulating during Monday's Winter Meetings that the Reds are discussing a trade that would send utility man Ryan Freel to the Orioles for veteran catcher Ramon Hernandez.
When asked about the Hernandez rumor, Jocketty's eyebrows lifted slyly but he would not directly engage. While he didn't confirm anything, he did not deny anything either.
"We've had conversations with a number of clubs," Jocketty said. "I'm not going to mention names. I can't mention any names."
Hernandez is set to make $8 million next season and has an $8.5 million club option for 2010 with a $1 million buyout. Baltimore wouldn't mind unloading that salary and would get a savings with Freel, who is due to make $4 million in 2009.
Orioles GM Andy MacPhail also wouldn't specifically address the report, but also played coy.
"There's been some discussions on different fronts," MacPhail said. "I wouldn't say there's nothing to it, but I have no idea -- like a lot of trade discussions -- of what the end result's going to be.
FoxSports.com reported Monday night that the two teams have discussed a deal that would bring Freel and a "mid-level prospect" to the Orioles in exchange for Hernandez, but only if the Orioles were willing to pick up part of the catcher's remaining salary.
The Reds have been trying to determine if they can find a frontline catcher or a veteran backup that would complement young Ryan Hanigan. MacPhail indicated to Baltimore reporters that nothing was imminent with the potential trade.
"Some of these clubs are pretty good at poker face here in Vegas about where they are and what their options are," MacPhail said.
Although Jocketty was busy in meetings with agents and club executives, activity was at a crawl for most teams on Monday.
"We aren't really any closer to anything today than we were yesterday as far as deals, direct trades or free-agent stuff. It's still pretty slow," Jocketty said. "I was talking to clubs and they all feel the same way -- the free-agent stuff has been slow."
The Reds still have an offer out to free-agent left-handed reliever Arthur Rhodes, but have not gotten him in the fold. Rhodes has also garnered interest from multiple clubs during the offseason.
"We're still talking. He hasn't accepted. We've proposed a deal to them," Jocketty said.
The Reds took care of their bullpen needs for right-handers before the Meetings when Mike Lincoln re-signed on Thursday and David Weathers accepted arbitration on Sunday.
"We have a lot of depth on the right side of our bullpen," Jocketty said. "We would like to get another left-hander. That's where Arthur Rhodes could come in. It'd be nice to have a guy with experience and quality of a guy like that. There are a couple of people that fit that description."
Jocketty had talks with the agent for Weathers in an effort to avoid arbitration, but there is no rush to get that done this week. There were also talks held with the agent for free agent infielder/outfielder Jerry Hairston Jr., whom the Reds are trying to re-sign.
Cincinnati's main priority this week is to acquire a right-handed hitting corner outfielder. If it's going to happen in Las Vegas, it will likely come via a trade.
"We're hopeful, let's put it that way," Jocketty said of the chances his team would leave town with a new righty hitter. "The free agents are still pretty expensive. It's possible we may sit for a while before we do anything like that."
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.