CINCINNATI -- Throughout the offseason, Reds general manager Dick Williams has made it no secret that he is seeking value signings -- also known as bargains -- as a way to make improvements and bolster weaknesses.
The first domino finally fell in that pursuit on Tuesday when Cincinnati signed former closer Drew Storen to a one-year, $3 million contract with incentive bonuses.
Storen's signing addressed the Reds' biggest weakness -- the bullpen. Now the question is, what's next? The club could certainly use more relievers, but Williams sidestepped whether he would add more.
"We will continue to try to make the club better," Williams said. "We've got some time left this offseason, and we're still going to stay busy."
The Reds have other areas to address besides the bullpen. They would like to add a veteran starting pitcher to compete for the lone rotation opening against a fleet of promising but inexperienced young pitchers. Catching depth is wanted behind Devin Mesoraco and Tucker Barnhart as Mesoraco tries to come back from two lost seasons and three surgeries that limited him to catching 19 games (18 starts) from 2015-16. There could be open spots to fill out the bench as well, perhaps with an extra outfielder.
Usually, the second half of the Hot Stove season is filled with bargains as free agents lower their prices and demands with Spring Training just around the corner. No capable player wants to be unemployed while their peers report to a camp in Arizona or Florida. Then there are the reclamation projects -- players coming off of injury-filled seasons who want a chance to prove they are healthy again and able to produce.
For clubs like the Reds, it all adds up to a chance to take a less risky investment on someone they hope pays off big.
If Storen succeeds, the Reds would certainly have gotten a bargain on the deal. Last year, their lone big league signing during the winter was reliever Blake Wood on a one-year, $600,000 contract, and he was often a bright spot in a bullpen that performed poorly. In 2009, outfielder Jonny Gomes came in on a Minor League contract and wound up resurrecting his career with 20 homers while earning $600,000.
Not all bargain signings pan out, so it is buyer beware. In January 2012, everyone thought the Reds got the steal of the offseason when closer Ryan Madson signed a one-year deal at $8.5 million. Madson blew out his elbow in Spring Training and never threw a pitch for Cincinnati. In '15, veteran reliever Kevin Gregg signed a Minor League deal and received $1.5 million after earning a spot on the team in camp. Gregg struggled mightily and was released in early May of that season.
Storen might represent the only Major League contract the Reds sign with a free agent this offseason. The rest could be Minor League deals.
"It's possible if we don't find the right value out there," Williams said. "There are other targets we have our eye on. We do have a criteria in mind for the type of player we want to acquire and the amount we're willing to spend. We just have to find the right match, and if we don't, we like the group we're putting together."
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.