On Opening Day 2012, the Cincinnati Reds had a payroll of just over $82 million. That ranked them 17th in the league, which is pretty good, considering they reside in the 2nd smallest TV market among all teams (34th in the US). But, considering that they are a well-established franchise in a city that has shown support in the past, I see no reason for them to make any major cuts to that payroll. I would say around $80 million is where they ought to be comfortable. They averaged close to 29,000 per game (slightly below the middle of the league), which is kinda sad for a playoff team, but not terribly disappointing. That means they were able to bring in around $48 million in ticket sales alone, so $80 million in payroll isn’t going to hurt them. Let’s see what 2013 is going to look like.
Who’s Under Contract?
- The Reds have quite a few already under contract for next season. Ten guys – Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman, Bronson Arroyo, Sean Marshall, Nick Masset, Ryan Hanigan and Jose Arredondo – accounting for $66.25 million. Here’s the problem – those same 10 guys cost around $13 million less in 2012. So, the Reds are gonna have to fill in some holes in order to keep their budget about the same.
- As for pre-arbitration players that look to be a part of the 2013 team, I think you would include J.J. Hoover, Sam LeCure, Logan Ondrusek, Devin Mesoraco, Todd Frazier and Zack Cozart without question. That’s six roster spots for about $3.5 million.
- There are also three guys that I could see them considering for 2013 – Didi Gregorius (SS and/or 2B), Billy Hamilton (SS or OF – broke Vince Coleman‘s minor league single-season steals record in 2012 with 155) and Tony Cingrani (LHP with excellent potential both in the bullpen and in the starting rotation). Any of these would be rookies in 2013.
- Ryan Madson – signed him to close out games…got hurt…others stepped up and made him expendable. Easy decision.
- Scott Rolen – he simply is going to cost too much for the Reds to consider keeping for another year. And, Frazier was the runner-up rookie of the year at 3B.
- Miguel Cairo and Willie Harris are both free agents. Neither provided enough to consider re-signing for 2013.
- Bill Bray, Wilson Valdez, and Alfredo Simon are all arbitration eligible guys that I wouldn’t bother tendering contracts to, because you have other options that will be cheaper, and just as good.
- Ryan Ludwick – free agent options in left field are going to be slim this year (and Hamilton isn’t an option in Cincinnati at his price tag). Ludwick shouldn’t cost more than $3 million, so another year or two should be all they need before guys like Billy Hamilton are definitely ready.
- Drew Stubbs – if Cincinnati had the budget, I’d maybe recommend Michael Bourn here, but they simply can’t afford it with all the money they’ve spent elsewhere. Stubbs will cost around $2.5 million (too much for his lack of production), but other options just don’t seem to be available.
- Chris Heisey ($1.2 mil.), Mat Latos ($4 million), Mike Leake ($2.9 million), and Homer Bailey ($5 million) are all eligible for arbitration, and the Reds simply can’t afford to lose any of them, even though these expected arbitration prices will be significantly higher than what they made in 2012.
Who Do They Go After?
- Considering the fact that this payroll would already amount to about $86 million, I say no one. There’s a couple more roster spots to fill, but that’s mostly just bench spots that they could potentially fill with guys out of their farm system. Unless the Reds are ready to move into the $100 million payroll club (which I wouldn’t recommend), they can’t afford to do much to improve this team. They’ll have to hope that Bruce, Frazier and Cozart continue to improve offensively with more experience, and hope their pitching and veterans hold up against the aging process.
It appears to me that the Reds will have to be closer to the $90 million payroll mark than they’ve ever been, if they want to field a competitive team. The good news moving forward is that Bronson Arroyo‘s contract will come off the books in 2014, allowing for prospects like Cingrani to step into the rotation, for a much lower price tag. The bad news . . . Joey Votto starts making $25 million per season in 2018 (when he’ll be 34), and doesn’t have a chance of coming off the books (barring a trade) until 2024 (when he’ll be 40). Yuck. The Reds will need a lot of help from their farm system to sustain that contract. We’ll see how that goes. For now, though, it appears that if the Reds send out essentially the same team in 2013 as they did in 2012, they’ll be in good shape in the NL Central.