MILWAUKEE -- Former Brewers closer Francisco Cordero returned to Miller Park on Tuesday and told his side of the story. Wearing Cincinnati red, Cordero expressed gratitude that the Brewers gave him a chance to be a closer again and insisted that there were no hard feelings after he spurned a four-year, $42 million offer from the Brewers for a $46 million deal with the Reds. Cordero also revealed for the first time that it never should have gone that far, saying he expressed interest months earlier about a multi-year extension with Milwaukee but got a tepid response. During 2007 Spring Training, Cordero told Brewers general manager Doug Melvin, though agent Bean Stringfellow, that he was interested in a multi-year extension with the Brewers, who had acquired him the previous July.
"We would have considered three or four years and it would have been less money than it was in free agency," Cordero said. "When you put up good numbers like I did in a free-agent year, then you're going to get paid. "They would have taken a risk, and I would have taken a risk. You don't know what's going to happen during the season when you don't get something done in Spring Training. They don't know if I'm going to have a great season like I did, and I don't know if I'm going to have a great season." According to Cordero, the Brewers showed little interest. "They said, 'No, we need to see you pitch,'" Cordero said. "So it was not the case that they didn't have a chance to bring me back. They did have a chance. They had plenty of chances to bring me back as a Brewer." Melvin remembers it differently, and pointed out that he never saw any kind of proposal from Stringfellow. The Brewers did submit an offer, the GM said, that would have replaced Cordero's 2007 contract with a three-year deal that would have nearly doubled his $5 million salary through 2009. Melvin said he never got a counter offer. Cordero went on to set a franchise record with 44 saves and won a spot on the National League All-Star team. Once he hit the open market, the idea of a hometown discount was off the table and things came to a head on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving when the Brewers submitted their $42 million proposal. As Cordero understands it, Stringfellow informed Melvin that he had a better offer, and the sides agreed to talk again on the Monday following the holiday weekend. "I think [the Brewers] thought it was a bluff," Cordero said. "An hour later, the same day, they called my agent and said, 'You have until [Friday] to decide. They put a deadline. They wouldn't wait until Monday." Cordero, who agreed to terms with Cincinnati on that Friday, did not like the idea of a deadline. "Not at all," he said. "Why would I like that?" Melvin figured as much. But he said the Brewers never intended to go past $40 million, and after upping their proposal to $42 million were told by Stringfellow only that Cordero had another offer from a team within the NL Central that was "significantly greater" than Milwaukee's. When Melvin heard that term, he backed off. Had Melvin known that $43 or $44 million might have swayed Cordero to stay, things may have ended differently. "I would have gone to ownership with it," Melvin said. Cordero's decision forced the Brewers to regroup. They added former Pirates closer Salomon Torres in early December, and days later came to terms with former All-Star Eric Gagne on a one-year, $10 million deal to be the closer. "[Losing Cordero] was a little surprising the first day, but then the second day we went right to work," Brewers manager Ned Yost said. "I just thought that he would sign here. He gave me no reason that he wouldn't, but [the Reds] offer was better and I completely understand his thinking. He's worked hard to be where he's at." Cordero has moved on, too. The Reds and Brewers are widely considered the two top contenders to unseat the Cubs as reigning division champions, and Cordero said he's happy in Cincinnati. "It was so nice to be a Brewer," he said. "They treated me the right way, they even gave me a second chance to get my job back. They put me in the closer's role. They brought be back last year [by exercising a club option] without hesitating. That's why I said early in Spring Training, 'I want to stay here. I want to stay with the Brewers.'" But once he hit the open market, "It was open to everybody. There's 30 teams in the big leagues that got a chance to sign me. Cincinnati showed a lot of interest, they went after me. I thought that the Brewers would have been more aggressive than the Cincinnati Reds because I pitched with the Brewers, not with the Reds." Countered Melvin: "He'll survive. He's going to be happy. We were aggressive, but there is a certain point where you have to back off."
Adam McCalvy is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.