Mercker agrees to $2.6 million, two-year deal with Reds

Updated: December 21, 2004, 1:15 AM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Left-hander Kent Mercker agreed Monday to a $2.6 million, two-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds, who have overhauled their bullpen in the last week.

Mercker, 36, went 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA in a career-high 71 appearances for the Cubs last season. Mercker is 69-65 in his career with a 4.19 ERA in 412 relief appearances and 150 starts.

The Reds also decided not to tender contracts to right-handers D.J. Mattox and John Riedling and left-hander Phil Norton, making them free agents.

Second baseman D'Angelo Jimenez, who had been eligible for arbitration, agreed to a $2.87 million, one-year contract with the Reds, who will have to find him a new double-play partner.

Cincinnati has decided it won't bring back shortstop Barry Larkin after 19 seasons, meaning Jimenez will be playing alongside unproven Felipe Lopez or Anderson Machado. Jimenez hit .270 with 12 homers and 67 RBIss in 152 games last season.

Mercker will be in his third stint with Cincinnati, where he pitched in 1997 and 2003. He was part of the Reds' payroll purge midway through the 2003 season, when Cincinnati dealt relievers Scott Williamson, Gabe White and Mercker. The left-hander went to Atlanta for right-hander Matt Belisle.

Mercker gets $1.25 million next season and $1.35 million in 2006.

The Reds bullpen had a 5.12 ERA last season, second-worst in the majors. Last week the Reds agreed to contracts with 35-year-old right-handers David Weathers and Ben Weber.

Norton was the only left-hander in the bullpen early in the season. He went 2-5 with a 5.07 ERA in 69 appearances. Riedling was 5-3 with a 5.10 ERA in 70 appearances.

The Reds got Mattox from the Mets in the Rule 5 Draft, hoping he would compete for a job in the rotation. He needed surgery to repair a ligament in his pitching arm in March and missed the entire season.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press

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