Cincinnati Reds closer Francisco Cordero said he might have taken a below-market deal to stay in Milwaukee, had the Brewers made an offer before the 2007 season.
Cordero, in Milwaukee on Tuesday for the first of 18 meetings this season, got a four-year, $46 million contract with the Reds, just over the $42 million the Brewers had offered for the same term this past offseason.
“It was a good race between the Brewers and the Cincinnati Reds,” he said.
The Brewers had a shot to sign him long term, prior to 2007. Cordero, acquired by Milwaukee in a six-player trade in 2006 near the deadline that sent Carlos Lee to Texas, went 3-1 with 16 saves and a 1.69 ERA down the stretch. He went into spring training seeking a new deal, but negotiations stalled quickly.
Miffed he couldn’t get a contract done before the start of the season, Cordero pitched brilliantly last year, saving a club-record 44 games and making the All-Star team.
“I really appreciated what the Brewers did. They brought me here, they gave me a second chance to be a closer,” he said. “I wanted to get something done early in spring training … but the answer was ‘We want to see you pitch.'”
Cordero said he might have made less money with an extension at that time, but that it’s worked out with Cincinnati, a team that hasn’t had a winning record since 2000.
“The money’s good, always. No doubt,” Cordero said. “It’s always good to have the money. But I’ve seen people who got the money who never win. It’s not about money only, it’s about winning. I believe we’ve got a pretty good chance over here.”
Cordero remained one of the bright spots last season in Milwaukee as the bullpen crumbled around him and the Brewers slid out of the postseason picture. The right-hander said he’s made no promises about how far he can carry the Reds bullpen like he did with the Brewers.
“I’m not going to guarantee that I can take them World Series, but I guarantee I’m going to try and do my job like I did with the Brewers and like I did with Texas,” Cordero said. “I’m going to try to do my best.”
Cordero said it didn’t hurt that he felt the Reds were the most aggressive team pursuing him. Cordero said he’d be playing pool or dominoes with friends and family in the Dominican Republic and he’d have to stop repeatedly because the Reds kept calling him.
“It was phone call after phone call after phone call. It showed you that they really wanted you on the team and they believed that you could help the team,” he said. “It was pretty fun in the offseason, being in the Dominican and the phone never stopped ringing.”
Cordero’s decision caught the Brewers off-guard.
“It was a little surprising, the first day. Then, the second day we went right to work trying to identify the guy who would come in here and take the job next,” Brewers manager Ned Yost said. “I just thought that he would sign here, I thought that he would come back. He gave me no reason that he wouldn’t, but their offer was better and I completely understand his thinking.”
But the Brewers quickly retooled their bullpen, turning to 2003 NL Cy Young winner Eric Gagne and adding new relievers David Riske, Salomon Torres and Guillermo Mota.