Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What the Hell Were You Thinking? Francisco Cordero Edition

*Over the next couple of weeks, Jorge Says No! will take an in depth look at some of the worst contracts in baseball. We'll evaluate why the player was signed, what went wrong, and future implications of the contract. Behind every bone head decision, there has to be a reason for it...right?*

Why Sign Cordero: Coming into the 2007 offseason, the Reds knew that they needed to address their bullpen. In 2007, the Reds bullpen finished with only 34 saves in 61 chances and a league worst 5.13 ERA. The Reds bullpen was a mess and Reds management decided to go after the best free agent closer available, Francisco Cordero. The Reds figured that if they signed Cordero, the rest of their bullpen would improve because guys like David Weathers and Jared Burton could be used in set up roles instead of closing situations.

The Reds thought so highly of Cordero that they made him one of the highest paid closers in baseball history despite the fact that the Reds payroll was only a meager $74 million.

As then GM Wayne Krivsky noted at the time:
"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."
What Went Wrong: During his first season with the Reds, Cordero struggled at times and was not the lights out closer the Reds paid so handsomely for. But to be fair, in his two seasons with the Reds, Francisco Cordero's performance has not been the problem. Sure his BB/K ratio is declining and his WHIP has gone up, but the real problem remains the Reds inability to accumulate talent, especially pitching. The Reds have so few resources that it makes no sense that they allocated such a high percentage of their resources to a closer, who will only pitch 65-70 innings each year.

If the Reds were contending for a championship, then this contract would make a lot more sense. However, it makes no sense to have a expensive closer on a team that is struggling, rebuilding, and has a limited payroll of which to work with.

Future Implications:
Well, the Reds are in a tough predicament right now. They have a number of high priced veteran players, who they would love to move, but in this economy, that's easier said than done. The Reds would love to move Cordero to give them some payroll flexibility, but that's not likely to happen at this point. Look for the Reds to aggressively pursue trades for Cordero throughout the year, but for right now, I'd expect the Reds to be quite stagnant this offseason (unless they decide to move Brandon Phillips).

Lesson Learned: Only sign a expensive closer to a long term contract if your team has a realistic chance to compete or you have the financial ability to pay a closer top dollar.

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