Reds sign Gonzalez, Stanton, then trade LaRue
CINCINNATI --_ Needing a shortstop and a late-innings reliever, the Cincinnati Reds committed roughly $20 million to fill two of their bigger holes. Later, they spent a little more to get rid of their logjam behind home plate.
One of baseball's most active teams isn't slowing down in the offseason.
Shortstop Alex Gonzalez and left-handed reliever Mike Stanton finalized multiyear contracts Monday with the Reds. Cincinnati then traded catcher Jason LaRue to Kansas City for a player to be named, agreeing to pay part of his $5.45 million salary next season.
The Reds were one of the more aggressive teams last season under new owner Bob Castellini, making a flurry of trades that transformed their roster. Cincinnati finished in third place in the NL Central with an 80-82 record, its sixth straight losing season.
The moves on Monday suggested they're still going full-speed.
"Stay tuned," said general manager Wayne Krivsky, who has acquired 40 players since he took over last spring training.
The light-hitting Gonzalez, 29, committed only seven errors last season with Boston. Stanton, 39, split the season between Washington and San Francisco, where he had eight saves and proved he can still pitch effectively on short rest.
Together, they'll fill a couple of big gaps.
Gonzalez is expected to improve a defense that had the second-most errors in the National League last season. He hit .255 with 24 doubles and nine homers for Boston.
Gonzalez gets $3.5 million next year, $4,625,000 in 2008 and $5,375,000 in the third year. If he wins the Gold Glove in either of the first two years, the third-year salary increases to $5.5 million. There's a $6 million mutual option for 2010 with a $500,000 buyout.
"We'll take the .260 and that Gold Glove-caliber defense and be happy with that," Krivsky said.
Felipe Lopez started at shortstop last season, but was undependable on routine plays and was part of an eight-player trade with Washington in July to restock the bullpen. Cincinnati got shortstop Royce Clayton as part of the deal, but he hit .258 and started only nine games in September.
The Reds also have been trying to upgrade their bullpen since the middle of last season. Left-handed closer Eddie Guardado, acquired from Seattle in one of those midseason trades, had reconstructive elbow surgery in September and won't be ready to pitch at the start of next season.
Stanton gives the Reds a proven option for late in games. He went 3-5 with a 4.47 ERA in 56 games last season for Washington, which traded him to San Francisco on July 28 for a minor league pitcher. Stanton was 4-2 in 26 games for the Giants with eight saves and a 3.09 ERA.
"He's shown he can close games, but he hasn't done it over a full year," Krivsky said. "I'm not going to get into projecting roles."
Stanton gets salaries of $2 million next year and $3 million in 2008. There's an option for 2009 at $2.5 million, with a buyout of $500,000. If he appears in 140 games over the next two seasons, the option-year salary vests at $2.75 million.
Stanton's deal was negotiated by Sam and Seth Levinson, who have represented him for more than two decades.
Stanton said in a telephone interview from the Cincinnati airport that about a half-dozen other teams also made offers. Stanton wanted to be closer to the East Coast -- his family lives in New Jersey -- and wanted to play for a team that could contend.
When Krivsky increased his original offer to a two-year deal, Stanton accepted.
"Obviously, the second year had a big influence on it," Stanton said. "It's still very early in the free agency period. It just looked like the right deal to me."
Although he saved games for the Giants, Stanton said it doesn't matter whether he's in a set-up role or closing games for the Reds, who were in contention until the last week of the season.
"What the organization and the team have done and what they're going to do shows they're going in the right direction," Stanton said. "I don't want to spend any time away from my family, more than I have to, especially if you're just playing out the season. I want to win."
LaRue was the No. 1 catcher heading into spring training, where he tore cartilage in his knee and had surgery. He moved behind David Ross and Javier Valentin at the spot, and never regained a full-time job.
Ross started 73 games last season and hit .255 with 21 homers. LaRue hit only .194 with 57 starts. Valentin started 32 games behind the plate and was the team's top pinch hitter.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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