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12/23/10 8:25 PM EST
Rhodes' exit opens door for Reds lefty relievers
By Mark Sheldon / MLB.com
CINCINNATI -- Since their elimination from the playoffs in October, it seemed like the Reds retaining lefty reliever Arthur Rhodes was a formality. The veteran spoke openly of wanting to return, and the club wanted him back. "I already told them that I want to come back, that'd I'd love to come back," Rhodes said in October while packing up his locker. "I've had a wonderful time here. I've enjoyed myself. We'll see what happens in the offseason." What ended up happening was a familiar outcome -- business has sent Rhodes elsewhere. On Thursday, Rhodes agreed to a one-year contract with the Rangers, MLB.com confirmed with multiple sources. Terms were not immediately known, and the deal has yet to be announced by Texas. The Reds learned Rhodes was going elsewhere on Wednesday. The 41-year-old Rhodes was a key late-inning setup man for the Reds the past two seasons. In 2010, he posted a 2.29 ERA in 69 games -- his most appearances since '01. It also included a stretch where he tied a Major League record with 33 straight scoreless appearances, spanning 30 innings. He was also an All-Star for the first time in his 19-year career. Rhodes was a Type A free agent, but the Reds did not offer him arbitration, meaning the Rangers won't give up a Draft pick to sign him. Complicating the re-signing efforts for Cincinnati was that other lefty relievers were getting larger deals. For instance, Scott Downs got three years and $15 million from the Angels, while Pedro Feliciano received a two-year, $8 million deal from the Yankees. Rhodes had a better season than both pitchers. Although Rhodes only received one guaranteed year from Texas, AOL Fanhouse.com reported the deal came with a vesting option for 2012. During the Winter Meetings, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said he was not willing to give Rhodes more than a one-year contract. For many teams, the loss of an All-Star lefty setup reliever with that resume would be a crushing departure. While he and his veteran clubhouse leadership will be missed, the Reds have an ample supply of lefties to fill the vacancy -- up to five southpaws in fact. No one can overlook the presence of Aroldis Chapman, the Cuban defector who dazzled the Majors as a rookie with a 100-plus-mph fastball that topped out at 105. In 15 relief appearances for the Reds after his Aug. 31 promotion, Chapman was 2-2 with a 2.03 ERA. In 13 1/3 innings, the 22-year-old left-hander had five walks and 19 strikeouts. The club was leaning toward having him back in the bullpen again before eventually making him a starter. This should cinch a bullpen role, for sure. Bill Bray returned last season after missing more than a year to recover from Tommy John surgery and provided some solid situational work. Bray had a 4.13 ERA in 35 games, but had a 2.31 ERA over his final 11 2/3 innings in 14 games. He also held left-handed hitters to a .106 (5-for-47) average overall. The pitcher who could benefit the most from Rhodes leaving has never pitched for the Reds. Dontrelle Willis signed a Minor League contract last month to try and reboot his career as a reliever. Willis, who will be a non-roster invite to Spring Training, was once a Rookie of the Year, an All-Star and a 22-game winner, but hasn't been successful the past four seasons. Matt Maloney has been a developing starting pitcher at Triple-A Louisville the past couple of seasons. He made five relief appearances for the Reds in 2010 and had a 3.05 ERA in seven games overall. With a crowded list of contenders for the rotation this spring, Maloney could have a chance to make the team as a reliever. Finally, Daniel Ray Herrera will have a better chance to rebound from a lackluster 2010 season. Herrera had a 3.91 ERA in 36 games with the Reds, but had 11 of his 39 inherited runners score. He retired 23 out of 36 first batters faced as he struggled with command of his screwball. If Chapman and Bray can remain consistently strong and at least one of the other three lefties can show they can contribute, the Reds could manage to minimize the damage the bullpen takes by losing Rhodes.