With the Reds, the right-hander could be vying for a role as either a starter or reliever.
"Either one, we'll see how he does in Spring Training," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "He's succeeded doing both. He's a versatile guy and a ground-ball pitcher."
"I think [in Cincinnati] I might have a little better of an opportunity with regard to competition," Saarloos said. "I think Oakland was kind of set in wanting a left-hander in the rotation. In my mind, I think they wanted a lefty, and I think [Joe Kennedy] was that lefty. Now at least, there's an opportunity for me to come into Spring Training and have a viable chance of being in the rotation."
Over his five-year big-league career -- which began with Houston in 2002 -- Saarloos has better than a 2-to-1 ground-ball-to-fly ball ratio. That is something that could help him at hitter friendly Great American Ball Park. He is 27-25 with a 4.79 ERA lifetime.
Krivsky said his scouting reports praised Saarloos' sinker pitch and his ability to change speeds. He also fields his position and holds runners well.
"He does a lot of things the way you want them done," Krivsky said. "We've been looking to add competition at the fifth starter's spot and improve ourselves. We felt this was a step in the right direction."
On Friday, Saarloos avoided arbitration with the A's when he signed a one-year contract worth $1.2 million. The pitcher would prefer to be a starter for the Reds.
"Definitely. I enjoy it more," Saarloos said. "It's your game from the beginning. As a reliever, it's a different mind set. You have to attack a little bit more. As a starter, you can mix and match your way around the lineup because you know you're going to see them two or three more times. I enjoy it more mentally."
Last season at Double-A Chattanooga, Shafer had 26 saves and a 2.36 ERA in 44 games.
"Kirk can help us now in the Major Leagues. David's opportunity will come a little later," Krivsky said.
In another transaction, the Reds signed veteran infielder Mark Bellhorn to a Minor League contract and invited him to big-league camp as a non-roster player.
The 32-year-old Bellhorn could offer the Reds infield versatility. Although primarily a second baseman, he has experience at all four infield positions.
"[Bellhorn's] played a little of the outfield, too," Krivsky said. "He's a versatile guy that can switch-hit and hit the ball out of the ballpark. He's a good all-around player that knows his role and can help our team."
Bellhorn batted .190 with eight homers and 27 RBIs in 115 games last season for the Padres. A lifetime .231 hitter, he has also played for the A's, Cubs, Rockies, Red Sox and Yankees.
In 2002 with the Cubs, Bellhorn hit a career-high 27 home runs. In 2004, he hit 17 homers and won a World Series with Boston.