CINCINNATI – Francisco Cordero is getting a lot of money to fix the problem that cost the Cincinnati Reds a bunch of games.

The NL’s worst bullpen got a new closer Wednesday when Cordero and the Reds finalized a $46 million, four-year contract.

Cordero’s agreement is the largest for a Reds reliever. But general manager Wayne Krivsky said once Cincinnati found it was competitive with offer from other teams, the Reds pushed hard.

“We’re this close. Let’s go for it,” he said. “This is a key guy. He’s going to make our whole pitching staff better.”

Krivsky said the late-inning bullpen woes hurt more than just on the scoreboard.

“That’s demoralizing on a club,” Krivsky said. “The Cincinnati Reds got a lot better with bringing Francisco Cordero in here.”

The 32-year-old right-hander was second in the NL with 44 saves and a 2.98 ERA last season for Milwaukee. The All-Star joins a bullpen that had 34 saves and a league-worst 5.13 ERA.

David Weathers, who had 33 saves this year, will return to a setup role. The Reds also have Jared Burton, who had a 2.51 ERA in 47 games while emerging as a late-inning pitcher in the second half of his rookie season.

Cordero said he was impressed by the Reds’ aggressiveness.

“They really want me to be here,” he said. “They showed a lot of interest.”

He said new manager Dusty Baker called him twice during the negotiations.

“That showed me that they’re not going to rebuild the team, they’re going to try to put together a winning team, a team that’s going to try to go not only to the playoffs, but the World Series,” Cordero said.

The Brewers fell just short of the playoffs last season; getting overtaken by the Chicago Cubs by two games in the NL Central while the Reds (72-90) finished fifth, 13 games out of first.

Cordero put on a Reds jersey with the No. 48 at a news conference; Krivsky smiled and said that’s for the number of saves he’ll have next season. Krivsky said the Reds are still looking to improve their pitching staff heading into next week’s winter meetings.

Cordero receives a $500,000 signing bonus payable by the end of this year, $8.5 million next year and $12 million in each of the following three seasons. Cincinnati has a $12 million option for 2012 with a $1 million buyout.

Cordero has a full no-trade provision during the first two seasons of the contract and a limited no-trade for the remainder of the agreement.

He struck out 86 in 63 1-3 innings and had an 0-4 record last year. In 2006, he was 3-1 with 16 saves and a 1.69 ERA for Milwaukee, which obtained him in late July in a six-player trade that sent outfielder Carlos Lee to Texas.

A two-time All-Star, Cordero has 177 saves over nine seasons, including a career high of 49 for Texas in 2004.

Cordero began this season by converting 22 straight saves chances and finished with seven blown saves in 51 opportunities. Batters hit .218 against him.

Cincinnati designated outfielder Buck Coats for assignment to make room on their 40-man roster.

AP-ES-11-28-07 1906EST

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