Reds sign center fielder Taveras

Updated: December 28, 2008, 12:36 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Willy Taveras and the Cincinnati Reds agreed to a two-year contract Saturday, plugging the team's hole in center field.

Taveras

Taveras

The speedy Taveras is coming off a down season with Colorado. He batted .251 with a paltry .308 on-base percentage in 133 games, though he did lead the major leagues with 68 stolen bases.

"Willy Taveras fills two significant needs for our ballclub, a speed base-stealing threat at the top of the order and superior defense in center field," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said in a statement.

Taveras, who turned 27 on Christmas, became a free agent when the Rockies decided not to offer him a contract by the Dec. 12 deadline. He spent two injury-plagued seasons in Colorado after he was acquired from Houston in a December 2006 trade.

Cincinnati had been looking for a center fielder with speed, allowing the team to keep promising young slugger Jay Bruce in right. Corey Patterson became a free agent after starting 82 games in center last season, and the Reds traded Ryan Freel to Baltimore this month in a deal for catcher Ramon Hernandez.

"With the addition of Willy Taveras and Ramon Hernandez, along with Alex Gonzalez and Brandon Phillips, our defense substantially improves up the middle," Jocketty said.

Taveras has a .283 career batting average with seven homers, 109 RBIs and 169 stolen bases. He batted .320 with a .367 on-base percentage for Colorado in 2007, helping the Rockies reach the World Series.

Taveras, who finished runner-up for NL Rookie of the Year in 2005 to Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard, was caught stealing only seven times last season for a major league-best .907 stolen-base percentage.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press

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