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Red Reposter - The Thrill of Hope

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Should fans be optimistic about the next few seasons?

MLB: Cincinnati Reds at St. Louis Cardinals Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Being honest with yourself is one of the most difficult things you can do. How many of us have had a moment when we’re watching something like the CrossFit Games and thought, “I can do that.” We head to the garage, move the boxes hiding our old weight bench, lift the bar over our head once, and then grab some aspirin on the way back to the couch.

Thinking objectively about ourselves is hard, but it’s necessary. The same thing is true when it comes to assessing a Major League Baseball team. A roster that’s in bad shape can only get better when the front office recognizes that the roster is in bad shape.

What would it look like for the Cincinnati Reds to be honest with themselves?

Jayson Stark briefly answered this question in his article, “Is there any hope for baseball’s basement dwellers?” Stark took a look at the A’s, Padres, Rays, and Reds. Specifically, he tried to gauge the level of hope each team should have in light of on the field and off the field issues.

The entire story is worth a read, but we’ll hit a few highlights. Undoubtedly, one of his biggest concerns for the Reds is their payroll situation over the next few seasons.

“So four players — Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco — are gobbling up $62 million of what is likely to be about a $90 million payroll. And they can’t move any of them.”

This struggle won’t surprise anyone who closely follows the team. Cincinnati could slightly alter this reality if they were able to find a team willing to take Brandon Phillips, but that is looking less likely by the day. Phillips contract will come off the books following the 2017 season, but raises to the players mentioned above will take up some of that potential flexibility.

In 2017, Votto’s contract increases from $20 million to $22 million. By 2018 he will be making $25 million per year for the next six seasons, but this shouldn’t be the main concern. If anyone on this roster deserves that kind of money it’s Votto.

The status of Mesoraco and Bailey could be much more problematic. Mesoraco’s base salary for 2017 is $7.2 million, this is up from $4.9 million in 2016. At the start of the 2018 season that number jumps to $13 million. A resurgence from Mesoraco over the next two seasons would dramatically ease the potential burden of his extension.

However, no player’s contract and performance has the potential to shape the next few seasons in Cincinnati like Homer Bailey’s. Fans will continue to debate whether Cincinnati should have signed Johnny Cueto to an extension instead. In 2017 Bailey will be the 16th highest paid starter in MLB, in spite of the fact he has only thrown 34.1 innings over the past two seasons. A small market team like Cincinnati can’t afford to miss on big contracts, and if Bailey doesn’t rebound it could be a long wait until 2021 when he hits free agency.

While the financial situation over the next seasons is dicey, Stark does see a few reasons for optimism in Cincinnati. He mentions the farm system, new TV deal, ball park, and ownership as reasons for hope. Take a few minutes to read Jayson’s article, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

In other Reds news, Amir Garrett sounds like a man on a mission heading in to 2017. Mark Sheldon wrote about some recent comments from the Reds left-hander in an article Monday. When asked about opening the season in the starting rotation Garrett said, “They’re not going to give it to me, so I’m going to come and take it.”

That’s the kind of thing you want to hear from your team’s top pitching prospect (according to MLB Pipeline). The Reds rotation at the start of the season figures to be Anthony DeSclafani, Brandon Finnegan, Dan Straily and Homer Bailey in some order. However, there are a number of pitchers competing for that final spot. Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed are also young starters who could figure in to the mix.

While it’s still unlikely that Garrett would jump straight to the majors by Opening Day 2017, it isn’t impossible according to Bryan Price. Garrett split time last season between Pensacola and Louisville. Over 23 combined starts (25 appearances) he held down a 2.55 ERA and struck out 8.2 per nine. Even if he’s not in a Reds uniform in March, it won’t be long before he’s making an impact in the big leagues.