With Scooter Gennett’s arbitration hearing now over, it seems the major transactions for the Cincinnati Reds this offseason are now in the books. Heck, with pitchers and catchers having reported and the first spring training game of the year on Friday, it’s not really even the offseason at all despite there being numerous big name players still available on the free agent market. The Reds, though, appear to be largely set and unwilling to add any significant player salaries to their current roster, which means we can make some pretty concrete estimates on their money situation at the moment.
Of course, all roster scenarios aren’t created equally, nor are the player salaries associated with those decisions. So, there’ll be a few assumptions on the periphery here, and while it’s incredibly likely that my best guesses won’t 100% line up with the Reds decisions, the bulk of the salary numbers I’ll get to here should go hand in hand with the final roster the Reds roll out on Opening Day. That said, there are a few positional battles that are still yet to be determined, but the players involved in those battles have salaries that largely are the exact same (i.e. Robert Stephenson, Tyler Mahle, Sal Romano, & Co. all battling for the final spot in the rotation while making league minimum).
Now, to the numbers.
Catcher - Tucker Barnhart ($4 million)
1B - Joey Votto ($25 million)
2B - Scooter Gennett ($5.7 million)
SS - Jose Peraza ($555,000)
3B - Eugenio Suarez ($3.75 million)
LF - Adam Duvall ($600,000)
CF - Billy Hamilton ($4.6 million)
RF - Scott Schebler ($555,000)
Bench - Devin Mesoraco ($13 million), Dilson Herrera ($555,000), Cliff Pennington ($1.5 million), Jesse Winker ($555,000), Phillip Ervin ($555,000)
RHP - Homer Bailey ($21 million)
RHP - Luis Castillo ($555,000)
RHP - Anthony DeSclafani ($860,000)
LHP - Brandon Finnegan ($600,000)
RHP - Robert Stephenson ($555,000)
RHP - Raisel Iglesias ($4.5 million)
RHP - Michael Lorenzen ($1.3125 million)
RHP - Jared Hughes ($2.125 million)
RHP - David Hernandez ($2.5 million)
RHP - Austin Brice ($555,000)
LHP - Wandy Peralta ($555,000)
LHP - Kyle Crockett ($555,000)
Payroll Bottom Line - $96,597,500
Let’s go over a few notes here.
First, the roughly $96.5 million payroll here would be nearly identical to the $95.4 million payroll the Reds opened the season with last year, and would also sit nearly $20 million shy of the team record $115.4 million payroll the team began play with back in 2015.
Second, there are admittedly a few selections I’ve included in the 25-man roster projections that were picked nearly at random. Kyle Crockett, for instance, isn’t even on the 40-man roster at the moment, but as a lefty he might well have the inside track to be the team’s LOOGY come Opening Day. That said, whether the final pieces in the bullpen are Austin Brice and Crockett or a mix of Jimmy Herget, Kevin Shackelford, Zack Weiss, or Ariel Hernandez, the fact remains that they’ll each be making league minimum salaries in 2018 as pre-arb players. The lone wild card in terms of how the overall payroll might be impacted is Vance Worley, who will compete for a spot on the pitching staff as a non-roster invitee who’ll make $1.5 million should he make the club.
Speaking of which, that “will make $1.5 million should he make the club” applies to recent signee Cliff Pennington, too, who I’ve included here as the presumptive backup SS and utility infielder. Based on recent comments after his signing and his track record, I’m leaning towards him earning a roster spot come Opening Day over the likes of rostered player like Alex Blandino and the non-rostered Phil Gosselin.
I suppose this is technically point number four, so fourth, I’m assuming Stuart Turner - who spend the enitrety of his healthy days on the active roster in 2017 after being claimed in the Rule 5 Draft from Minnesota - will open in AAA Louisville now that he doesn’t have to remain on the big league roster to remain in the organization. Conversely, that Dilson Herrera is out of options makes him my pick for the primary backup 2B/3B, especially one that can serve as a platoon partner for Scooter Gennett.
Finally, what’s clear here is that there should absolutely be money in the Reds war-chest should they actually, finally, hopefully, finally, maybe, finally, actually, finally begin to play some winning baseball at some point this season. Mesoraco’s salary will mercifully come off the books after this season, for one, and while there are ample projected arbitration raises to certain players come 2019-2020, the fact that the Reds have run payrolls way, way higher than the current level in recent memory before the recent BAMTech windfall suggests that winning - and the presumptive boost in attendance that would come with it - should open the door for an fairly expensive addition at some point soon should the club show a hint of a winning trend. That’s an idea Joey Votto himself firmly endorsed in recent comments to the media, and one I’m sure all of you would be behind, too.
For now, though, it seems the Reds will begin the year with a payroll just shy of $97 million, which in 2017 would’ve ranked as the 25th highest payroll in all of baseball - which was the exact rank the Reds opened with last year. Winning and increased payroll is a chicken/egg argument at its finest, and I, for one, hope like hell that we finally get to at least have that argument again with the Reds, and soon.
*All salary numbers come from Cot’s Contracts, the single most reliable clearinghouse for baseball salary numbers out there, in my opinion.