CINCINNATI -- The Reds accomplished one of their top
offseason priorities Tuesday by agreeing to an $8.2 million,
two-year contract with right-hander Paul Wilson.
Wilson, 31, was the most dependable starter on the worst
pitching staff in franchise history. The Reds set club records for
highest staff earned run average (5.19), most runs allowed (907)
and homers given up -- 236, only three shy of the NL record.
Wilson went 11-8 with a 4.36 ERA last season, making $3.5
million. He became a free agent after the season but made it clear
he preferred to stay in Cincinnati if a deal could be worked out.
Wilson's contract includes base salaries of $3.6 million for
2005 and $3.75 million for 2006. There's a team option for 2007 at
$3.75 million with an $850,000 buyout. The option can become
guaranteed at $4 million to $5.1 million, depending upon innings
pitched in the first two years.
He made himself attractive to other teams by going 2-0 with a
1.74 ERA in his last four starts but wanted to stay with a
franchise that has had four straight losing seasons.
"We have a great offensive team and a good defensive team,"
Wilson said. "I think with our young guys, the attitude is we're
going to be aggressive and not be scared of doing our job. I think
we have a lot to accomplish, but we can do that."
Wilson signed with the Reds as a free agent after he went 6-12
for Tampa Bay in 2002. He has prospered at Great American Ball
Park, where the tall infield grass helps ground-ball pitchers.
"You learn over the years what you're capable of doing," he
said. "The longer you play, the more you learn guys' tendencies,
what they can and can't do, and you learn what you can and can't
do. I'm a sinkerball pitcher, a guy that leans on making contact
and leans on the defense. For a long time, I fought that."
He had one complete game last season and led the staff with 29
starts and 183 2/3 innings. His 11 victories were a career high and
the most on the Reds, who made it a priority to retain him.
The Reds expect to have a young rotation next season, and wanted
a veteran who can work with inexperienced major leaguers.
"Paul leads by example, his work ethic and his preparation for
the games," general manager Dan O'Brien said. "Just the way he
carries himself in competition sends a pretty strong signal to our
younger players. He shows them day-in and day-out how to be
professional. A lot of guys need that sort of example to follow."