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Jocketty creative in making Reds viable

Jocketty creative in making Reds viable

CINCINNATI -- The Reds' holiday wish for improved payroll flexibility was granted over the weekend.

For hopeful fans, Scott Rolen's restructured contract doesn't mean that there will be a big free-agent signing in the Christmas stocking. But it might mean that the Reds can improve their chances hanging on to the higher-priced players they already have.

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Rolen's restructured deal lowered his 2010 salary from $11 million to $6 million. The $5 million difference was changed to a signing bonus when his contract was extended through the 2012 season. The total value of the deal was $23.63 million.

Recall earlier in the offseason that Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said the club wouldn't be active on the free-agent market. Jocketty also indicated the payroll would be close to the 2009 level of $73 million.

He just didn't say how Cincinnati would get that done. Obviously, Jocketty had to get a little creative. And he might have to tinker some more, some way.

That's because things are still pretty tight if payroll is to stay level. The Reds still have $59.75 million committed to nine players during 2010 in Aaron Harang ($12.5 million), Francisco Cordero ($12 million), Bronson Arroyo ($11 million), Brandon Phillips ($6.75 million), Rolen ($6 million), Willy Taveras ($4 million), Ramon Hernandez ($3 million), Mike Lincoln ($2.5 million) and Arthur Rhodes ($2 million).

Two more players -- relievers Nick Masset and Jared Burton -- are arbitration eligible and likely to get big raises.

On Dec. 12, the Reds non-tendered Jonny Gomes, believing he could receive up to $2.3 million through arbitration. Gomes can still return as a free agent, but the Rolen move does not improve the chances of a Gomes re-signing.

Although Gomes was its best right-handed hitting option for left field, the organization feels it could have a satisfactory, and cheaper, replacement in prospect Chris Heisey.

Last week, there were rumors that the Reds were talking to the Dodgers about a Harang trade. It went nowhere and potential talks are considered dead. Keep in mind that Harang's price tag can go up. His $12.75 million club option will be worth $13 million if he pitches 210 innings next season. If he's traded, the option becomes a mutual option worth $14 million, with a $2.5 million buyout.

After the holidays, there could be some bargains, since well over 100 free agents remain unsigned. The Reds are looking around for a possible shortstop, but say they would be satisfied going to camp with the defensively strong Paul Janish as the main man at the position. The club also wouldn't mind improving its starting pitching depth.

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

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