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Three Reds avoid arbitration

Lots of signings around baseball Friday ahead of the 1 p.m. ET deadline for clubs and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures.

The Reds have three players who agreed to terms on contracts to avoid arbitration.

Reliever Sam LeCure: Two-year contract worth $3.05 million
Starting pitcher Mike Leake: One-year contract worth $5.925 million
Reliever Alfredo Simon: One-year contract worth $1.25 million (according to Rosenthal)

Leake’s deal was announced on Twitter by his agency, the Beverly Hills Sports Council, but the Reds have yet to verify.

Cincinnati still has two cases pending in RHP Homer Bailey and LHP Aroldis Chapman.

– Mark Sheldon

Heisey, Reds avoid arbitration

The Reds and outfielder Chris Heisey avoided arbitration on Thursday by agreeing to a one-year contract worth $1.76 million, MLB.com confirmed. It was first reported by ESPN. com’s Jerry Crasnick.

Arbitration eligible for the second time, Heisey received a raise from the $1.325 million he made last season. He batted .237/.279/.415 in 2013 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs over 87 games as he also missed time with a hamstring injury.

The deal with the 29-year-old Heisey comes ahead of Friday’s deadline for clubs and arbitration-eligible players to exchange salary figures.

Cincinnati now has five players that remain eligible for arbitration in Aroldis Chapman, Homer Bailey, Mike Leake, Sam LeCure and Alfredo Simon.

– Mark Sheldon

Reds add Jeff Francis

I have confirmed that former Rockies LHP Jeff Francis has signed a Minor League contract with the Reds and will be invited to big league camp next month. ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick first reported the deal.

If Francis’ name sounds familiar to fans in Cincinnati, he also signed a similar contract with the Reds on Jan. 25, 2012, but never reached the Majors that season after not landing a job on the staff at Spring Training. For Triple-A Louisville, Francis went 3-6 with a 3.72 ERA in 12 starts. He opted for his release from Cincinnati on June 4 of that year and returned to his longtime team, the Rockies.

Now 33, Francis was 3-5 with a 6.27 ERA in 23 games, including 12 starts, for Colorado in 2013. Over 70 2/3 innings, the British Columbia native gave up 89 hits and 24 walks with 63 strikes.

The Reds have not announced a transaction regarding Francis, yet.

Without Bronson Arroyo returning, the Reds have been adding some depth behind their expected five-man rotation. Tony Cingrani is expected to replace Arroyo. The club has also traded for LHP David Holmberg from the D-backs last month and signed free agent RHP Chien-Ming Wang to a Minor League deal in December.

– Mark Sheldon

Rockies interested in Marshall?

Troy Renck of the Denver Post reported Tuesday that the Rockies were aggressively pursuing trade talks with the Reds about lefty reliever Sean Marshall. But, the report also noted that talks have since cooled over concerns about Marshall’s health.

Marshall is 31 and has two years and $12 million remaining on his contract. Because of shoulder issues, he was limited to only 16 appearances last season. Therefore, the Rockies’ apparent concerns would be legitimate.

It was not known who the Reds might want in return for Marshall. On Monday, GM Walt Jocketty indicated the only way the Reds could any big deals would be to shift some payroll out. Marshall wouldn’t be a huge enough move to sign Shin-Soo Choo but maybe it would help add someone else. On the other hand, having two lefties in the bullpen with Marshall and Manny Parra is a nice asset to have.

– Mark Sheldon

Jocketty: Reds better w/ Phillips

Reds general manager Walt Jocketty appeared on MLB Network Radio with host Chris Russo on Wednesday and seemed to put to bed the trade rumors involving Brandon Phillips.

“I told him we are not in any talks to trade him,” Jocketty said. “I’m not saying we wouldn’t trade him but I told him we’re a better team with him here.”

– Mark Sheldon

Reds unlikely to trade Phillips?

Reds 2B Brandon Phillips has been subject to myriad trade rumors for much of the off-season. But late Tuesday night, Fox Sports’ Ken Rosenthal heard from a source that said otherwise. Rosenthal reports that it is unlikely the Reds will deal Phillips this winter.

The odds were already tough that Phillips could be moved since he has $50 million and four years on his contract. Rosenthal points out that the Reds’ offense would already be depleted if the team lost free agent Shin-Soo Choo.

However, Choo wasn’t expected to stay in the first place when the Phillips rumors started. So that’s not exactly a revelation.

A deal is certainly still possible, especially if a substantial one is offered, Rosenthal wrote. Teams that lose out on free agents Robinson Cano or Omar Infante could have Phillips has a fall back option.

GM Walt Jocketty has maintained that no one is untouchable on the current roster in the effort to make upgrades, including Phillips.

At the moment, Phillips is not on the list to attend Redsfest this weekend. But he was extended an invitation by the club.

– Mark Sheldon

Parra re-signs with Reds

MLB.com has confirmed that Reds left-handed reliever Manny Parra is back with the Reds after he signed a two-year, $5.5 million contract on Wednesday. Parra will earn $2 million in 2014 and $3.5 million in 2015. He has already passed his physical.

The Reds have yet to make an announcement.

Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported it first.

Signed last winter as a free agent, Parra was 2-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 57 games. The 31-year-old walked 15 and struck out 56 in 46 innings of work.

Parra credited then-pitching coach Bryan Price for helping him with his turnaround as Price and assistant pitching coach Mack Jenkins developed his slider. Price is now the Reds manager, of course.



– Mark Sheldon

Reds interested in Carlos Beltran?

An unexpected team appears to have joined the fray with an inquiry about free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran.

Beltran told a Spanish language newspaper, Primera Hora, that the Reds have reached out to his representative, Dan Lozano. Beltran also told the reporter from the publication that he’d like to stay in the National League.

Beltran has been linked to several of the contenders in the American League this offseason, a list that includes but isn’t limited to Detroit, New York, Texas and Boston.

That Cincinnati could be a possibility for an in-demand free agent like Beltran is a little stunning since it is a small market club with limited payroll flexibility. It’s also a long shot that he becomes a Red.

The Reds would like to bring high-priced free agent Shin-Soo Choo back to play center field but are unlikely to meet his high salary demand. Choo is 31 while Beltran is 36, and could be signed for fewer years perhaps but with probably a very high yearly salary. Beltran made $13 million in each of the last two seasons.

Beltran would also have to switch spots. Primarily a right fielder for the Cardinals the past two seasons, the Reds already have Jay Bruce as their right fielder. The Reds also have Ryan Ludwick in left field.

– Mark Sheldon

Fielder-Kinsler deal has ripple effects?

It may have been a 1-for-1 trade between the Rangers and Tigers that swapped Prince Fielder and Ian Kinsler and their large contracts, but it could have ramifications elsewhere — including Cincinnati.

Rumors have been rampant all fall that the Reds are trying to move 2B Brandon Phillips. While the deal erased one destination in Detroit, it also showed that big contracts like Phillips’ aren’t impossible to move.

The deal could also affect the Reds’ efforts to re-sign Shin-Soo Choo. The Rangers were already in the hunt, reportedly. Now you can likely add the Tigers to the mix since they need a left-handed hitting corner outfielder.

For more, read my story by clicking here

– Mark Sheldon

Schumaker has Reds deal

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting that the Reds and free agent IF/OF Skip Schumaker have agreed on a two-year contract, pending a physical. I am working to confirm that myself.

Schumaker, 33, played for the Dodgers last season and batted .263/.332/.322 in 125 games. From 2005-12, he played for the Cardinals. He would be reunited with his old Cardinals GM, Walt Jocketty, in Cincinnati.

A left-handed hitter, Schumaker is a career .300 hitter with a .357 on-base percentage against right-handed pitching and a .211 hitter with a .280 OBP vs. lefties. Defensively, he can play second base and all three outfield spots.

– Mark Sheldon

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