Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini has said that the 2019 roster will have the highest payroll the franchise has ever had. That comment alone doesn’t mean much. From the article:

“We’ll have the highest payroll we’ve ever had,’’ Castellini pledged. The previous high was $115 million in 2015. This year it was $101 million.

“We’ve spent a lot of money on this team,’’ he said, citing front office additions, money spent to sign international players and adding another minor-league affiliate, a Rookie League team in Tennessee.

There are a few things to digest in the quoted section above. More than $115M of payroll. The league average payroll is $140M in 2018. 16 teams topped that mark and only two of the ten teams to make the playoffs were under that mark. Payroll isn’t everything, but it certainly plays a factor in how good your team can be. Will the Reds sniff a league average payroll? Or is the “highest payroll ever” going to be coming in around $120M and still well below-average? We’re all going to have to wait and find out on that one.

As for that second part, it just rings hollow. Every team is also out there spending money on front office hires and signing international players. The Reds did buy the Greeneville franchise for an undisclosed amount of money. But, it’s worth noting that it’s probably not like buying many other franchises, because they don’t own the stadium. That alone probably saved them millions and millions of dollars if you want to compare it to buying other minor league franchises. I’m sure there was some money spent for the franchise. But on the surface it probably sounds more expensive than it actually was once you take into account that they bought the name and territory – not a stadium and those things.

It’s easy to spend money that isn’t mine. But citing things that literally everyone else does as “we’re spending!” just rings hollow. Throughout the rebuild, it’s been said that when the time was right, the organization would boost payroll. As noted, the team at their heights of that 2012-2015 run was spending $110-115M a year. But it’s been cut quite a bit since. Simply getting a tiny bit above those numbers will look bad. People will ask where that “saved” money went. Especially since they’ve added a new television contract. Of course, since the Reds are literally the only team in baseball who won’t tell you what they get paid from that contract, we don’t know just what they added in that situation. Still, it’s more than they were getting in 2015. If the payroll isn’t at $130M+, any and all questions about “where’s the money” will be very valid.

You can’t force players to sign with you. So there’s something to be said about having money and wanting to spend it, but things didn’t work out. But right now the Cincinnati Reds payroll commitments for 2019 sits at roughly $100M. That could change slightly depending on exactly what guys like Scooter Gennett and Billy Hamilton get in arbitration.

That, of course, brings up another question: Will one or both of those guys even on the Reds in April? There are some legitimate reasons to believe that Billy Hamilton should be non-tendered a contract for 2019 by the Reds. While he has some value, and is probably worth his contract in true money/value terms, for the Cincinnati Reds, he probably isn’t. Obviously you try to trade him before you non-tender him if that’s the road you want to go down. Gennett will clearly be worth his raise in arbitration. The question is whether it makes sense to pay him $10-11M for that. Or if it makes more sense to move on, save the money, play Nick Senzel at second, and spend that money on pitching.

There’s a lot of moving parts that could come into play. The Cincinnati Reds have some very important decisions to make over the next two months. How much they spend on payroll is only one of those decisions. But, it’s one of the bigger ones. Unfortunately aside from “more than $115M”, we don’t know what that will be. Perhaps telling the world how much you’ve got to spend could hurt in negotiations. Still, having a better idea of what could be spent would give the people you were trying to reach with your statement a better feeling than the one that they seem to be having with just a big question mark.

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34 Responses

  1. James Phillips

    The Sportrac 2013 payroll of 113mil is almost 121mil in 2018 dollars.

    I think it’s incredibly unlikely that the team will spend the money and resources necessary to improve by 25-30 wins before the position players suffer cost increases and performance drops. They either need to go all in or start rebuild 2.0. Adding a league average pitcher isn’t going to be enough.

    • Ghettotrout1

      I agree to James. Go all in or say forget it still. The only problem is there aren’t really too many trade chips that would constitute rebuild 2.0. I mean Scooter, Iggy, Suarez, and unless your legit getting serious prospects for them I would say forget it and just stand pat and keep on losing LOL. But I will say I think this fan base is pretty apathetic and another bad season could be tough to come back from as a franchise stand point. I would go all in if it was my money given they have saved a lot over the last few years and I wouldn’t want to see my fans that dead and possibly my future profits long term.

  2. redlegs4ever

    I did not expect you to have such a negative connotation to this remark Doug, though I understand your frustration and you do raise some valid points.

    This to me is good news, even if it’s just getting to the 120 mark, there’s no rule that Castellini has to spend anything, lest we forget the Linder years…

    • redlegs4ever

      Then again 120 mil could easily be eaten up by ludicrous overpay extensions for Scooter and Harvey and if that’s the case it’s time to consider a name change to (teamtobenamedlater)4ever.

      Now you got me thinking all negative lol.

      • Alex

        Exactly. I couldn’t believe they are paying 101 million for this team. And your so right, if gennett, Hamilton and Harvey are all on the team that is basically 115 right there.

        I just don’t see the free agent thing. Maybe a pitcher on the next tier up from a scott Feldman type but I don’t see an A or B tier pitcher signing up to play in that stadium. That is a believe it when I see it thing for me based on history.

        To me, the team will be built thru player development and savvy trades.

        Doug, Steve mancuso had an interesting tweet about when was the last time a reds FO person was poached by another team. Do you have any knowledge of that? Have there been any? Who were they?

        Also, do you think that Dick Williams would get hired by another team to be their President of Baseball Operations?

      • Doug Gray

        Johnny Almarez?

        But, several years before Williams ever got the GM job, there was an article somewhere (it may have been on ESPN) that had him listed as one of the “future GM watch” types. I know that much of the Reds fan just want to scream “nepotism” with Williams, but he was being looked at in that role for a while before he ever actually got that job.

        And let’s be real: Baseball, and life, is full of nepotism and things that resemble it. Look around baseball and who has what job. It’s not the guys that went to Michigan or Stanford or Northwestern – all of whom have outstanding reputations. It’s the guys that went to an Ivy League school. The scouting directories all around baseball are full of so-and-so’s kid.

        That’s not to say that those people aren’t good at their jobs. And it’s not to say that they haven’t done their job well enough to get to where they are now. But, I am saying that a lot of people in baseball got their job at the start because of who they are and who they knew, and not necessarily how skilled they were at the very beginning of their career. And that holds true for a lot more industries than just baseball.

  3. LB

    Sign Patrick Corbin to a long-term deal.

    Give Drew Pomeranz a 1-2 year deal and see if he can stay healthy.

    Trade for Marcus Stroman.

    Trade Billy and possibly Scooter to free up space and money.


    • AirborneJayJay

      Corbin is going to the Yankees. Morton is staying an Astro. Miley is probably staying a Brewer. And about 22-23 teams will be going up against each other for the services of Keuchel and about 15-16 going for Gio.
      Free agent-wise, the best we can hope for with the Reds will be Nathan Eovaldi or Lance Lynn. Eovaldi will be 29 next season and Lynn 32. Eovaldi has that big fastball that averages 97.5 and might be something to pair with Castillo, and a low BB%. Lynn is a workhorse and will give you 33 starts and almost a K per IP, and a low HR%.
      What the Reds could trade for is entirely different. That will just depend on how much prospect capital they want to spend. Seeing that quite a few prospects are in redundant positions, might as well deal from strengths and quit hoarding so many prospects. Thin the herd some this winter. They have the 2019 draft to replenish any prospects traded this winter. They will draft 7th in each round plus have a competitive balance pick after the first round and before the second round.

    • Ghettotrout1

      I agree I would love to see that but probably not. I just honestly can’t really see this team spending money on any real free agent. But I’m hopeful I just don’t see any truly bold moves.

  4. Mark_W

    Oh boy. Every time Paul Daugherty talks to Bob Castellini, it gives me less and less faith in this franchise, and less optimism that the Reds will be able to compete any time soon. This article is very telling, and one thing I got from it, is that Bob C. thinks he is spending a lot on this team already and we shouldn’t expect a lot more.

    He also says the team is set in positional players, but how can a team that lost 95 games, and 94 before that be set anywhere? Shouldn’t the team be looking to improve any way they can?? His mentality, and the franchise mentality by default, is out of whack. I saw the Phillies GM the other day say the team would pursue “significant changes.” Even though that team took a step forward, and actually progressed in their rebuild, the GM says it isn’t good enough, and they want to “push the envelope.” I’d love for that to be the Reds mindset instead of whatever it is they are thinking. Castellini’s grip on this franchise is just depressing.

    • Norwood Nate

      Agreed. It’s getting to the point that I won’t have any faith in this organization until Big Bob isn’t the majority owner.

  5. Doc

    In my opinion, if Gennett and, to some degree Hamilton, are retained given the salaries they will command, that will say just about everything one needs to know about the committment to improvement. It is no secret that the team needs pitching. Between Hamilton and Gennett there will be roughly $15MM that either goes to them, or can go to pitching. The Reds lost 94 and 95 games, respectively, the last two seasons with Hamilton and Gennett. Although six other teams in 2018 suggest it isn’t the case, I don’t see how the Reds lose more than that without those two the next two years.

  6. Stock

    I am with Doug. This sounds good and a casual fan may be excited about this. However, this does nothing for me. Big Bob should let the experts run the team because he proves time and again that he has no clue. Bob was the one who pushed for the terrible Homer Bailey signing. Bob was the who insisted on near ready players in trades. Bob was the one who would not permit the trades of Scooter and Hamilton this summer.

    People praise Bob and slam Lindner (even in the comments to this post). But most of the player acquired in the 2010-2012 run were signed during Lindner’s tenure.

    Signed during Lindner’s reign: Hanigan, Votto, Janish/Cozart, Stubbs, Bruce, Cueto, Homer and Wood.

    The Reds traded for Phillips and Arroyo in Bobs first 3 months with the Reds as well as trading for Rolen in 2009.

    FA signings: Cordero to close, Chapman, and Jonny Gomes.

    Finally Bob was on board with the drafting of Leake.

    • Michael Smith

      Mat Lattos was big part of 12-13.
      Cozart was drafted after the reds were purchased by Bob’s group
      Ludwig was good player on 12 team with 130 ops
      Stubbs was drafted after bob took over.

      In summary 3/5ths of the 2012 rotation, the top two bull pen guys plus starting left fielder, center fielder, shortstop, second basemen and third basemen came after Bob took over.

      I now feel dirty for defending the man but way to much credit was being given to the Lindner era.

  7. Joe

    Wow I can’t believe we was jus 14million below our all time payroll high with th team we had this yr.

  8. MK

    They payroll has to go up $5 million just to cover increases in long term deals, just to remain the same. Bailey ans Suarez go up 7 and Tucker down 2.5.

    I still think they need to explore to see what they can get for Suarez in trade, especially with Senzel ready. His contract , control, and production should be able to get them a pretty good starter.

    • Tom B.

      I absolutely agree with this, even though it is not a popular idea. If the goal is to improve the team by trade, you have to look at which player would bring the most in return. Hands down — Suarez is the most marketable. I love the guy, but trading Suarez makes the most sense.

  9. DX

    Doug, It’s an interesting time. This year the MLB batting average will be the lowest since 1972. This year there were more strikeouts than hits.

    I would think this would make good hitters more valuable in trades but it doesn’t seem to be the case.

    • Doug Gray

      Average and strikeouts being down and up isn’t changing how many runs are being scored. It’s just changing how the runs are being scored.

  10. B-town Fan

    This is what I would advise the Reds do since the likelihood of signing Corbin or Kuechel is slim, do to cost. I would sign second tier free agent starters Nathan Eovaldi and Hyun-Jin Ryu to go with Castillo and the last 2 spots would be filled with 2 of Disco, Lorenzen, Sims, Reed, Mahle. Sign another Hughes/Hernandez level free agent reliever. Then trade Billy if possible or release him, and sign free agent center fielder A J Pollock, if it is deemed Senzel cannot play there, in the fall instructional league. Perhaps sign Pollock anyway because of Senzel’s vertigo issues that could pop up again. I think you could field a competitive team in the central with those additions without having to lean to much on the younger players and if a couple of the young players really surprise to the upside then all the better. This would leave your top prospects in the farm system alone not sacrificing the future. The payroll would have to increase with these moves but I believe these additions would be the very least you would have to do or something very similar to compete with Milwaukee and the other teams in the central.

    • MK

      especially since Pollack has been so injury free over the years.

    • Redsvol

      I don’t think this too far out of line. I too think they need to sign a couple 2nd tier free agent pitchers and a veteran center fielder. However, I wouldn’t go after Pollock due to expected contract – I think a platoon of Austin Jackson and Jose Siri would be just fine. I wouldn’t want to totally rely on a rookie in case he is overwhelmed or injured. We don’t need to pay Billy what arbitration will require and I really don’t think we need to pay Scooter either. Turn it over to Senzel and Herrera. Focus needs to be on pitching and some bench depth.

      • BurgRed

        I would put Siri in CF and not look back. He costs much less. Has comparable defense skills and much higher ceiling. Not to mention his slugging percentage is way above BH.

  11. James Phillips

    When you’re so far below league average, the five million a year going to Griffey Jr. and Arroyo hurts.

  12. asinghoff

    Slightly off topic, but with the fact that baseball contracts are guaranteed, why don’t more teams push more money into the front end of contracts? Seems like every contract (Votto, for example) goes up year over year when it seems like you could better balance your talent if you were paying less for the later age seasons. It would also increase the trade value of those players if they are still productive at the tail end while commanding lower salaries.

    • Bill

      Contracts are typically backloaded because of the time value of money. Because of factors such as inflation, today’s dollars are worth more than tomorrow’s dollars.

  13. Kong

    Well, let’s be fair to Bob. Gettting Bronson to come out of retirement to start next year for the Reds is going to take a little more coin then it did a couple of years ago.

  14. I’m a broke hillbilly

    Another old tight owner. You have the premiere player in Joey Votto, but you don’t go for the gold?

    Another old tight in the wallet owner.

  15. redleggingfordayz

    Honestly I just can’t see this team truly competing until we get out from under the Bailey contract after next year. I think possibly 2019 could be a great “setup” year. Get a solid #2 pitcher if possible, hope Santillian and others take a step forward and can help out come September. Sign another 1-2 David H\Jared H types to get a really solid bullpen. Then possibly make a big splash next off-season for a top tier pitcher depending on how we perform. I think in the end this all comes back to what the Reds do with Harvey\Scooter\Billy this off-season. Hopefully the Reds are ready to make some tough choices and we can see that payroll get up to the 130’s or 140’s and pray Big Bob isn’t all talk.

  16. Hoyce

    Doug. I’ve brought this trade up before but would u do this trade if u were the redsor the rays?
    Suarez and hunter Greene for blake snell?
    Maybe try to get an additional prospect thrown in?
    Imo reds have to acquire an ace. And there’s only a handful out there. And that package might be too good to turn down

  17. Colorado Red

    Got to get rid of Billy.
    He is not worth what he will get in Arbitration.
    I do not have a problem with signing scooter to a 3 year 12 per year contract.
    I do not want to re-sign Matt (unless it is really cheap, but BC is not smart)
    Corbin is going to NY, lifelong fan.
    RYU may be the best bet, if he not be injured.
    It is going to be a long year, again.

  18. GM Nep O'Tism

    So more than $115m in a league where the average payroll was $139m, and 7 of the 10 playoff teams spent more than the league average on payroll.

    I imagine the average will be higher again since there were a few teams avoiding the luxury cap this year in preparation for the big FA class.

    Reds will pay Hamilton, extend Scooter, re-sign Harvey, find themselves some Yovani Gallardo/Chad Pennington/Phil Gosselin-types, have their payroll at $116m, and call it a job well done.