I was trying to get a feel for how the 2010 roster might be shaping up in terms of dollars and roster slots, and was so impressed by management's foresight I just had to share what I found. One of those things isn't true.
The Reds have three expiring free agent contracts: Jonny Gomes ($0.6M), Laynce Nix ($0.6M), and Kip Wells ($0.5M). Wells is a true free agent. It is unclear whether Gomes and Nix, due to their low service time totals, are still technically under the team's control after the '09 season. If they are, they will have arbitration rights, and will come back at a higher salary.
The Reds also have two team options for 2010: Ramon Hernandez can be re-signed for $8.5M or can be bought out for $1M. Alex Gonzalez's option is for $6M, with an alternative to buy out for $0.5M. For the sake of my sanity, I am assuming that both players will be bought out, for a total 2010 budget committment of $1.5M.
Nine players are under signed contract for 2010:
Harang - $12.5M; Cordero - $12M; Rolen - $11M; Arroyo - $11M; Phillips - $6.75M; Tavares - $4M; Lincoln - $2.5M; Rhodes - $2M; Alonso - $0.5M
If we assume that Alonso will not be on the 25 man roster next year, and add the aforementioned buyouts, that's $63.75M for 8 players. Note that this makes a rather rosy assumption regarding Lincoln's return. Also note that of the locked up players, three represent strong bets to be above average players at their respective position (CoCo, BP, and Rhodes), and two of those are relievers--the most volatile year-to-year position.
The good news is that as best as I can tell, none of the current Reds are due for arbitration next year (save for the possible exceptions of Gomes/Nix). The group of Volquez, Votto, Bruce, Janish, Masset, etc, etc. will all be available to return at salaries between $0.4M - $0.6M. Since we talked earlier about 8 players already slotted, if we add 17 more to draw up the 25 man roster, that's somewhere in the neighborhood of $7.6M. This assumes no long term contracts offered to any of the youngsters in an effort to buy out future arbitration years.
The current 25-man roster is at a salary of around $74.4M (source: ESPN, plus a small assumption or two on my part). That's offset to some degree by the fact that: a) Rolen hasn't been here all year; and b) the Jays are covering some of his salary. Somewhere in the low 70's ought to be a sufficient assumption. Middle of the pack, as MLB payrolls go.
The roll forward of 2010 payroll in the exercise above yields a number somewhere around $71M - $72M.
A few assumptions/predictions, then:
1) The team has suffered financially in the recession, and is unlikely to significantly increase payroll, if at all.
2) The projected 2010 roster will include an outfield of Wlad / Tavares / Bruce, and either Janish or a rookie at SS.
3) The team will be assessed as being shorthanded in the OF and at SS, but will lack the budget to go after anything more than a very cheap free-agent.
4) The bullpen will also have perceived shortfalls.
5) Harang or Arroyo will be dealt in the off-season to free up the necessary payroll to address these areas.
6) The return package for Harang/Arroyo will be perceived as very underwhelming. The trade will be roughly a fair value transaction, however.
7) Local apologist beat writers will respond fan disappointment by pointing to the list of departing contracts after 2010 and suggesting that the Reds will be major players in the 2010-11 free agent market. Said writers will forget about the trio of arbitration raises that will coincide with that season (Volquez, Votto, and Cueto), which will eat up a good chunk of the freed payroll.
8) The team will, however, crack the .500 barrier in 2011, and make a run at the playoffs. This will be under the watch of a new manager and general manager who will be fired during the course of an ugly 2010 season.