Reds, Valentin avoid arbitration

Reds, Valentin avoid arbitration

The Reds' dynamic duo behind the plate will be back in action in 2006.

The club avoided arbitration and signed catcher Javier Valentin to a one-year contract worth $1.15 million Sunday, less than a month after locking up Jason LaRue with a two-year deal.

Barring a trade, the Reds will retain the Major Leagues' best offensive catching corps from 2005, though several teams had inquired about both Valentin and LaRue this offseason.

"Right now, we're positioned to go into Spring Training with both catchers on the roster," general manager Dan O'Brien said.

Valentin and LaRue combined to hit .268 with 28 homers and 110 RBIs. in '05. Their 26 home runs while catching tied the Mets and Red Sox for the big-league lead, and their 101 RBIs at catcher was the highest of any team's backstops.

Though LaRue had been counted on in years past for consistency at the plate, the Reds weren't banking on the production they got out of Valentin this season.

"We thought he was a good offensive player," O'Brien said. "But I don't know that we anticipated him having quite the season he did. To his credit, he worked very hard."

The hard work paid off.

The 30-year-old Valentin had a breakout year, establishing career highs in average (.281), home runs (14) and RBIs (50). His career-high .310 average with runners in scoring position was third-best on the club.

Valentin really came alive in mid-July, when he hit five home runs and drove in 11 runs over the course of three games against the Rockies and Cubs.

At the end of the season, O'Brien wasn't overly optimistic that he'd be able to retain both of his catchers, who were each eligible for arbitration.

"This is certainly the far preferable outcome, for anyone involved in the arbitration process," O'Brien said. "It's not a pleasant experience."

It's an experience O'Brien still hopes to avoid with his five remaining arbitration-eligible players: Adam Dunn, Aaron Harang, Austin Kearns, Felipe Lopez and Wily Mo Pena.

"All I can say is the discussions are in various stages," O'Brien said. "At this point, all parties are making an effort to try to get something resolved."

Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.