Wells the Reds' only eligible free agent

Reds' Wells eligible for free agency

CINCINNATI -- It doesn't take long after the postseason ends for the Hot Stove season to start. In fact, it essentially started seconds after the Yankees notched the final out of Wednesday night's World Series clinching Game 6 vs. the Phillies.

Players were eligible to file as free agents Thursday now that World Series is finished.

Only one Reds player is immediately eligible for free agency -- pitcher Kip Wells. However, catcher Ramon Hernandez is likely to join Wells as a free agent since his $8.5 million club option isn't expected to be picked up. The Reds are likely to take the $1 million buyout and try to negotiate another deal at a lower price.

The Reds have until Nov. 15 to decide on Hernandez's option. He would be rated a Type B free agent on the market. If he is offered arbitration, it would mean the Reds would receive a first-round sandwich pick in the 2010 Draft as compensation if he signs with another team.

Beginning on Thursday, teams have 15 days -- or through Nov. 19 -- to exclusively negotiate with their own free agents before they are able to talk to other teams.

Wells, 32, was 2-5 with a 5.33 ERA in 33 games with the Reds and Nationals in 2009. Washington released Wells on July 6 and he was signed to a Minor League deal the next day by Cincinnati.

After his callup from Triple-A Louisville, Wells went 2-3 with a 4.66 ERA in 10 games, including seven starts. He pitched respectably over the season's final month by going 2-1 with a 3.65 ERA in four September starts. However, he would bring no compensation back should he sign elsewhere.

If Wells is brought back to compete for the Reds' vacant fifth-starter's spot, it seems most probable to be under a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training.

There could be other Reds free agents to reckon with down the road. The Reds have to set their 40-man roster by Nov. 20 and will need to clear some space to make room for prospects. Later in the offseason, the club must also decide whether or not to offer arbitration to veteran outfielders like Jonny Gomes and Laynce Nix.

As for the Reds' potential pursuit of other teams' free agents once the market opens up after Nov. 19, don't expect much to happen. At the end of the regular season, Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said he didn't plan on his team being too active on the market this winter.

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