Back in the 2015 season, the Cincinnati Reds sported a payroll north of $115 million, the highest mark in team history. Of course, since that time they’ve shed established player after established player as part of their massive rebuild, and in doing so shed the large salaries those players carried with them.
After dipping to a low of some $89 million for the 2016 season, the Reds have gradually added-back to their salary outlay, entering the 2018 season with a payroll of some $101 million. And, according to team owner Bob Castellini, the 2019 season will feature the team’s highest ever payroll, as he relayed to The Enquirer earlier this week. On the surface, that means that there should be at minimum around a ramp-up of $15 million from their 2018 payroll, but given the way baseball salaries escalate with service time and the arbitration process, a good portion of that might already be baked in.
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at what we already know about the projected payroll, thanks in large part to the estimated arbitration raises recently released by MLB Trade Rumors and their generally rock-solid model.
Players already under contract for 2019: $62.125 million
- Joey Votto, 1B -$25 million
- Homer Bailey, RHP - $23 million
- Tucker Barnhart, C - $2.5 million
- Eugenio Suarez, 3B - $7 million
- David Hernandez, RHP - $2.5 million
- Jared Hughes, RHP - $2.125 million
Arbitration-eligible players for 2019: $28.2 million
- Scooter Gennett, 2B - $10.7 million (Arb-3)
- Billy Hamilton, CF - $5.9 million (Arb-3)
- Jose Peraza, SS - $3.6 million (Arb-1, Super Two)
- Anthony DeSclafani, RHP - $2.1 million (Arb-2)
- Michael Lorenzen, RHP - $1.9 million (Arb-2)
- Curt Casali, C - $1.3 million (Arb-1)
Wild Card: ~$7.7 million
- Raisel Igleisas, RHP - under contract for $5 million, but might opt into the arbitration process due to clause in his contract permitting him to do so
- Scott Schebler, OF - $2.7 million (Arb-1, per MLBTR’s estimate); finished the season with 2.132 years of service time, putting him firmly on the bubble for qualifying for Super Two status, and if he falls just short of the cut-off, he’ll only be due the ~$555,000 league minimum again in 2019
Estimated total (14 players): $95.325 million
Barring any outside additions or inside subtractions, those 14 players will account for some $95.325 million for the 2019 payroll. If the Reds choose to fill the remaining 11 spots on the 25-man roster with pre-arbitration players at the estimated league-minimum salary of $555,000 each for the 2019 season, that will add an additional $6.105 million to their payroll.
Estimated total 2019 payroll (25 players currently in the organization: $101.43 million
The Reds are, obviously, on the look for major outside additions. They’ve spoken in earnest about addressing the issues with their pitching staff, particularly their starting rotation woes. That will certainly come at a significant cost, which will come either via free agent signings or by assuming the contracts of players on other teams via trade.
There is also some nebulous area surrounding a pair of Reds entering their final years of team control. Scooter Gennett and Billy Hamilton are the lone Reds in that situation, and their combined estimated arbitration salaries are pushing $17 million for 2019. Given the presence of Nick Senzel behind Scooter and Hamilton’s continued woes offensively, there’s always the chance of those two players being shopped this winter. Although, given the affinity for both from team owner Bob Castellini, there’s always the chance those salary numbers for 2019 become irrelevant by longer-term contract extensions for both of them.
It’s also worth noting that there could still certainly be additions made to the position-player group despite all of the everyday positions seemingly accounted for. The trade scenarios of Scooter and Billy above certainly are in-play, but a quick glance at what could well be the everyday bench reveals a need, too. Some combination of pre-arb players like Phillip Ervin, Dilson Herrera, Alex Blandino, Brandon Dixon, Blake Trahan, Mason Williams, and Curt Casali will likely form the everyday bench; however, of that group, only Williams is a left-handed hitter, and since there’s a very real chance he’ll be in AAA again to begin the year, that would leave the Reds without a lefty bat for pinch-hit and double-switch scenarios. Adding that - especially if it’s a veteran - would add a few more bucks to the payroll, too.
Assuming there are no subtractions from the existing core, however, there should be no less than $15 million for the Reds to add this winter. Whether that all goes to one pitcher, or not, remains to be seen, as does whether the Reds merely pip their previous record payroll by the smallest of margins or blow past it to make the number of additions it might well take to actually give the 2019 season some bit of promise.
*All existing contract numbers were pulled from Cot’s Contracts, a resource I’d highly suggest you turn to when investigating the details of all MLB contracts for players, managers, and front office personnel alike.