A little more than a week after losing closer Francisco Cordero to a four-year contract with the Cincinnati Reds, the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday morning were near a contract agreement with veteran reliever Eric Gagne, according to an industry source.
The deal is for $10 million over one year, and Gagne could make another $1 million in performance bonuses.
Upon Cordero leaving for the Reds and Scott Linebrink signing with the Chicago White Sox, the Brewers signed David Riske, who has 20 career saves and no more than eight in a single season, to a three-year contract, and traded for Pittsburgh Pirates right-hander Salomon Torres. They also have Derrick Turnbow, who lost the closer role in an inconsistent 2006 season and then lost the job for good to Cordero.
The addition of Gagne should put Riske, Turnbow and Torres into setup roles, though the Gagne signing is not without risk. After two injury-plagued seasons, Gagne had a 2.16 ERA and 16 saves for the Texas Rangers, was traded to the Boston Red Sox at the trading deadline, lost his command, and had a 6.75 ERA over the next two months. He claimed to be healthy.
Despite a reasonable interest in re-signing Gagne and a backup plan to have C.J. Wilson or Joaquin Benoit serve as closer if Akinori Otsuka was slow to return from an elbow injury, the Texas Rangers announced Friday they were unwilling to guarantee two years on Gagne. In an otherwise soft market for a reliever whose stuff bears little resemblance to the "Game Over" closer who notched 152 saves from 2002-2004 with the Los Angeles Dodgers, that appeared to leave only the Brewers.
The Reds, who had the lowest save percentage in the National League, blowing 28 of 62 chances, will pay Cordero $46 million over four years.