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Have the Reds really hit the budget ceiling?

And, if so, can they vote to raise it?

In his Reds Insider yesterday, John Fay sounds a familiar refrain on belt-tightening. Even in light of Arroyo's salary deferrals, the Reds are left with very limited payroll space:

The Reds have no room in the budget for even bargain-basement free agents. They are reluctant to trade their young players. And even if they were willing to give up young talent, they can't afford to take on salary.

According to Fay, the benefits of the deferral are limited to helping the Reds meet their budget and to possibly make a bid for Arthur Rhodes. If the budget is flat from last year at $76.2M (guaranteed salaries plus pro-rated bonuses), then this claim could check out. Using reasonable estimates for arb-raises and the 2011 salary provided in Bruce's extension, the Reds may well only have around $2-$3M to throw at the Scholar (aka the Colossus, aka BAMF).

But we're heard that payroll is going to be a few million north of last year - possibly to $80M or above. Depending on the payroll increase, the Reds could have up to $7-8M to spend.  This is an educated stab in a barrel, but I'm projecting the payroll currently in the $73-74M range, with a liberal estimate of $17M going to Volquez, Bray, Burton, Cueto, Votto and Bruce and the rest tied up in guaranteed contracts, buyouts and pre-arb players who are likely to make the Opening Day roster. This projection leaves five spots to fill, including the Arthur Rhodes' High Chrysanthemum Altar of Bullpen Sovereignty. If four spots are filled at league minimum, that's another $1.6M. The question becomes: Do you give Rhodes most of the remaining cash or take a pass and try to turn it into a significant upgrade in LF or SS?

My projection could be off, or the payroll increase could be myth, but based on the information available, the franchise seems capable of adding a little bit of salary, even on top of making a competitive bid for Rhodes. Whether there's anyone available and worth the trouble at that level is up for debate.