Reds aim to amp it up with moves

Reds aim to amp up playoff chances in '07

CINCINNATI -- Hired as Reds general manager by a new ownership on Feb. 8, 2006, Wayne Krivsky was afforded just one week before Spring Training opened.

Krivsky signed four players that first week and made a whopping 36 acquisitions during the season overall.

What can Krivsky and his front office team accomplish with a full winter to work with?

The results will be seen soon enough, but the bottom line goal is to turn a surprise almost-playoff team in 2006 into a bona-fide playoff team in 2007.

"We'll fill the holes one way or another, whether it's through the free agent market or trades," Krivsky said by phone from his Great American Ball Park office. "We're going to try and make the team better."

High on the agenda for Cincinnati this offseason will be the search for a new closer. Even if Eddie Guardado returns as a free agent, his elbow ligament replacement surgery in September won't have him ready in time to begin the season. Another in-house free agent, David Weathers, would probably fill a setup role if he is re-signed.

The free agent market has few bankable closers and its biggest name is Eric Gagne, who missed most of the past two seasons with the Dodgers because of injuries. Gagne's $12 million club option for 2007 was not picked up.

Already benefiting from Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo as a solid 1-2 combo in the rotation this past season, expect the Reds to seek another starting pitcher that can bolster the staff.

Among the position spots, the club has an opening in right field. In the middle infield, the club was thrilled with Brandon Phillips' performance at second base. But it has also entertained ideas of moving Phillips to his natural position at shortstop and would need a second baseman if the switch was executed.

Reds free agent infielder Rich Aurilia is a natural thought, but the club has yet to commit an everyday spot to him. Aurilia could still return to Cincinnati while he is exploring his options on the market to see if he can land a starting job.

The questions that seem most pressing on everyone's minds this offseason are how much more will the Reds spend? And who will they spend it on?

For now at least, those questions will have to remain unanswered until the Reds make something happen on the transactions wire.

"I'm not going to talk about payroll," Krivsky said. "The ownership has been good about doing what it takes to put a winning team on the field. They're going to do everything they can. I'm confident that we can get the job done."

In his first year running the Reds, chief executive officer Bob Castellini demonstrated his willingness to win. He supported Krivsky's constant roster tinkering and attempts to improve. Castellini also allowed the eating of some pricey contracts of underperforming players that were let go.

"Wayne, if you can put together as good of a team on the field as [chief operating officer] John Allen has put together in the broadcast booth, we'll be in the World Series next year," Castellini said in a quasi-subtle joke about his high expectations on Oct. 31 just after the club added Jeff Brantley to the broadcasting team. Earlier last month, the Reds also added nationally-known voice Thom Brennaman.

In 2006, the Reds worked with a payroll in the $60 million range. At this point, they already have an estimated $49 million committed to 10 returning players under contract for 2007. Harang, rotation-mate Kyle Lohse and catcher David Ross are also due hefty sums as arbitration-eligible players.

Teams can begin negotiations with free agents from other teams after Saturday. Krivsky's approach to the market could be similar to the efforts to the Twins -- where was an assistant GM until moving to Cincinnati. Minnesota won four division titles over the past five seasons but rarely made significant expenditures in free agency. Many of its most successful moves came through trades.

The Reds' biggest dealing chip is Dunn. However, last week's hiring of hitting coach Brook Jacoby signaled they'd like to keep their slugging, but strikeout prone, left fielder. Jacoby had some success while working with Dunn in the Minor Leagues in 2001.

Pitchers like Barry Zito, Jason Schmidt and players like Carlos Lee and Alfonso Soriano are considered the biggest prizes on a not-so sparkling free agent market this winter. Even with Castellini's strong financial support, expect Krivsky to be responsible with the budget and not enter into bidding wars for the top-end players.

"Sometimes, it's not the sexiest moves that put you over the top," Krivsky said. "It's a series of transactions that help you get there."

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