The Cincinnati Reds are no doubt in the midst of a major roster overhaul, one dating back to last year's Winter Meetings when both of Mat Latos and Alfredo Simon were traded to the Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers, respectively. The biggest roster decisions facing the Reds at that point were the contracts of those two pitchers as well as those of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake, since all four were entering their final year under contract and the team was set to face a pile of tough contract decisions.
Well, that sure as heck isn't the case any longer.
All four were traded in the last calendar year - as was LF Marlon Byrd - and the list of major roster decisions facing the Reds in this upcoming off-season appears to be much, much shorter than the one from a year ago. That doesn't mean there won't be a few tough decisions, though, and I'll attempt to jump into those below as I breeze through the current state of the roster.
Joey Votto ($20M), Brandon Phillips ($13M), Jay Bruce ($12.5M), Homer Bailey ($18M), Todd Frazier ($7.5M), and Devin Mesoraco ($4.9M) are each signed to a set salary for the 2016 season for a cumulative total of $75.9 million, and they'll be tasked with forming the core of the offense and with manning the top of the rotation in 2016.
Unless, of course, the team continues to shop Jay Bruce as they did at the 2015 non-waiver trade deadline, in which case he may well be on the move.
Votto, Phillips, Bruce, and Bailey are each well into what would've been their free agent years, and the 4-year deal Mesoraco signed prior to his hip-impinged 2015 season means he's on the books into what would've been his free agent years, too. Frazier, however, inked a 2-year contract that bought out his first and second arbitration years (2015-2016), so while he's already cost-controlled for next season, he's under team control in his final year of arbitration eligibility in 2017 (should he still be a part of the rebuild).
There's also Raisel Iglesias, who signed a 7-year, $27 million contract during the middle of the 2014 season, which means that the rookie right-hander will already be in the third year of his deal when he likely assumes a spot in the team's rotation at the beginning of the 2016 season. He'll get $1M of his signing bonus this November 15th and a $2.5 million salary for the 2016 season.
Aroldis Chapman headlines this list, as he's entering the final year of his complicated contract with the Reds. He avoided arbitration while settling on a 1-year, $8.05 million contract in 2015, and he'll get a raise to somewhere in the $12.5 million range for the 2016 season in his final round of arbitration.
Whether Chapman gets that from the Reds or someone else remains to be seen, however.
Zack Cozart's in line for a raise in his second run through arb-eligibility, and despite his debilitating knee injury (and the emergence of Eugenio Suarez) I expect the Reds to tender him a contract rather than non-tender him and set him loose as a free agent. Yes, it'll take about $4 million, and yes, Suarez showed he's capable of being an above average SS, but Cozart has trade value at that still relatively low price, and he's the kind of player you sign and trade (if need be) rather that just cut loose with nothing in return. He's been worth nearly 9 WAR in his last four seasons - even with his 2015 cut way short - and simply non-tendering him would be a major tactical mistake.
J.J. Hoover is likely to be the third priciest potential arbitration case, as the durable righty's bounce-back season in 2015 (135 ERA+ in 64.1 IP) should set him up for a solid raise from the near league minimum salary he earned in 2015.
Should the Reds choose to keep Brennan Boesch around, the soon to be 31 year old is arb-eligible again in 2016, though I'm not sure he did a ton last season to warrant being tendered a contract. Sam LeCure also has another year of team control should the Reds choose to keep him around, as he'd be in his third and final year of arbitration eligibility. Sam just wrapped up a very odd season that saw him end the second year of the 2-year, $3.05 million contract he signed to buy out his first pair of arbitration years, but was also DFA'd and subsequently brought back late in the season.
Jason Bourgeois is an interesting case, since the Reds sure gave him a pile of playing time in Billy Hamilton's absence late in the year, and the soon to be 34 year old will be arb-eligible for the first time in 2016 should the team choose to bring him back. He sure didn't show much (.625 OPS, -0.8 dWAR), though, and that potential pay raise to an aging backup CF may be why the team went out and got Tyler Holt so late in the season. Ryan Mattheus is also arb-eligible for the first time, though if you take what I wrote about Bourgeois and translate it into bullpen-speak, he's essentially in the same exact situation.
Did you catch the final 64 games of the Reds' season? They rolled out rookie starting pitchers in each of them - a streak that broke an MLB record - and in the process started the clock on a metric ton of pre-arbitration players. In fact, I'll just list all of them (even those who weren't rookie pitchers) for the sake of brevity.
Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, David Holmberg, Keyvius Sampson, John Lamb, Brandon Finnegan, Josh Smith, Pedro Villarreall, Tony Cingrani, Jon Moscot, Dylan Axelrod, Collin Balester, Jumbo Diaz, Nathan Adcock, Carlos Contreras, Billy Hamilton, Eugenio Suarez, Tucker Barnhart, Kristopher Negron, Adam Duvall, Tyler Holt, Ivan De Jesus, Ryan LaMarre, Ramon Cabrera, and Kyle Waldrop all cracked the roster at some point in 2015, and while many have options and will be plying their trade in the minors in 2016, those who make the 25-man roster will be making roughly the league minimum of some $550K.
Keep that lengthy, lengthy list in mind when complaining that the Reds haven't "blown things up and started over hurr durr."
Here's where we get to talk about Skip Schumaker. I know you've been waiting anxiously.
The Reds hold a $2.5 million option on Skip for the 2016 season that includes a $500K buyout clause, so the team essentially gets to decide whether they want to keep him for next year for a pair of millions. Skip, you'll recall, has pinch-hit like a boss and provided generally craptastic defense in five different positions in his time with the Reds, in which he's accrued -1.9 bWAR, provided a meager 72 OPS+, and somehow been used as a designated hitter on multiple occasions.
That leadership, though. He may well be back.
Cincinnati also holds a $4.5 million option on Burke Badenhop that features a $1.5 million buyout, and their decision on him will be one to watch. Bork struggled tremendously in April of this year (15.43 ERA, 1.157 OPS against in 7 IP), but from the end of April to the end of the season held opponents to just a .636 OPS against and turned in a mighty fine 2.58 ERA. That shouldn't be terribly surprising to the Reds, really, since in his career he's made a habit of that (.875 OPS allowed in March/April, .699 OPS allowed for his career; 6.37 ERA in March/April, 3.74 ERA for his career).
Manny Parra, Sean Marshall, and Brayan Pena all finished the season on the Reds 40-man roster, but none of the trio are under contract or arbitration eligible beyond this season.
Parra likely would've been a decent trade piece had he not dealt with minor injury issues in the shadow of the trade deadline, and it's likely the Reds will concede they have ample LHP talent to let him sign with someone else.
Marshall, unfortunately, never threw a pitch for the Reds in 2015, and thereby ended the 3-year, $16.5 million extension he signed with the Reds having thrown just 24.1 innings of 5.18 ERA ball. I admire his comeback attempts from shoulder explosions, but I'd be quite surprised if he gets another shot in the big leagues at this point.
As for Pena, NERTS wrapped his 2-year, $2.28 million deal at the end of the season, and any attempt to bring him back will largely depend on the health of Mesoraco, it seems. Barnhart established an ability to be a decent MLB catcher, and if Mes is back and catching it would appear the team's backstop situation would be set. However, if Mes can't squat due to his hip issue and is forced to switch positions, a major hole would be there that Pena could ably help to fill. At 34 next year, he can't be counted on full-time, but in a time share he's plenty capable of filling that role.