"Francisco is a guy we identified at our organizational meeting back in October as one of the, if not the most, coveted free agents from our standpoint that we would go after aggressively and try to sign," Reds general manager Wayne Krivsky said. "And that's exactly what we did."
Cordero was the top available closer on the market. In 66 appearances for Milwaukee this past season, he was 0-4 with a 2.98 ERA and 44 saves in 51 chances, while appearing in his second All-Star game.
The 32-year-old right-hander was wooed by the Astros and Brewers, with his former team offering $42 million over four years with a $13 million option for a fifth year. But Cordero liked the way Cincinnati courted him, with Krivsky and new manager Dusty Baker leading the way.
Baker placed a couple of calls to Cordero's home in the Dominican Republic.
"They've been calling my home since Nov. 13," said Cordero, referring to the first day players could openly negotiate with teams. "They really wanted me to be here. They really wanted me to be a Cincinnati Red. That showed me they're not going to rebuild a team right now. They're going to try and get a winning team, a team that's going to compete and try to not only go to the playoffs, but the World Series. Knowing Dusty Baker and watching him when he was with the Giants and Cubs, he's a great manager."
"I told him how much we wanted him and basically how much we needed him," Baker said from his home in California. "He could really make our bullpen and we could get other guys in primetime situations."
After landing someone for the ninth inning, the Reds hope they can solve their bullpen woes in the seventh and eighth innings, too. The club's relievers posted a 23-31 record in 2007 with a league-high 5.13 ERA while converting 34 of 61 saves.
In the eighth inning last season, Reds opponents scored 123 runs, which was more than any other inning.
"We lost a lot of games last year that we had leads, that we were supposed to win and didn't," Krivsky said. "That's demoralizing on a club. Nothing is worse than losing games late when you have a big lead. The Cincinnati Reds got a lot better bringing Francisco Cordero in here."
David Weathers, who had 33 saves in a nice season as the 2007 closer, will return to a setup role. The bullpen also has Jared Burton, who emerged as a strong eighth-inning man in the second half of his rookie year. Baker didn't specify the roles Weathers or Burton would have.
Weathers couldn't be reached for comment but Krivsky spoke to him and said the veteran supported the big acquisition.
"He's a true professional. He's a team player," Krivsky said. "He knows that the Cincinnati Reds got better. He's thrilled with this signing."
A nine-year veteran of the Tigers, Rangers and Brewers, Cordero has 177 career saves and a 3.29 lifetime ERA. He had a career-high 49 saves with Texas in 2004.
Even with that type of resume, signing a reliever to a long-term deal carries plenty of risk. The closer's spot is often a volatile one and the most mentally demanding. Performances can often go from feast to famine without warning, as exemplified by former Astros closer Brad Lidge. But demand for quality relievers remains high as evidenced by escalating salaries for closers ranging from Mariano Rivera to Billy Wagner to B.J. Ryan.
In terms of guaranteed money, Cordero's contract is the largest ever for a reliever and it's also the largest free agent signing in Reds history. It easily surpassed Eric Milton's three-year, $25.5 million deal with Cincinnati, signed before the 2005 season.
"There's two ways of looking at it," Krivsky said. "There's always risk that it doesn't work out. But the reward could pay off huge for us. That's what we're banking on. The market was there for him to command these types of dollars and years. You're either in or you're out. And we're in. We're excited to have him."
As the press conference to introduce Cordero began, Krivsky presented his new pitcher with a Reds cap and a No. 48 jersey. Cordero wore that number in Milwaukee.
"That's the number of saves for '08, what do you think?" Krivsky said to Cordero. "If we get that, we're in great shape."
"I'm really happy. I'm excited," Cordero said. "I can't wait until Spring Training to start. I want to wear this not here. I want to wear it in April already. I want to see what it's going to be like in Cincinnati."