In today’s Enquirer, John Fay talks about the Reds payroll.
The Reds basically have made three transactions since the Casey trade.
They signed utilityman Ryan Freel to a two-year, $3 million contract.
They signed catcher Jason LaRue to a two-year, $9.1 million contract.
And they signed left-handed relief pitcher Chris Hammond to an $800,000, one-year deal.
By my calculations, that leaves all or almost all of the Casey/Morris money in the 2006 budget. Remember, LaRue and Freel probably would have gotten more had they gone to arbitration.
I don’t think anyone could dispute Fay’s point. IMO, there is no doubt that both Freel and LaRue would have received more in arbitration than the $3.9M and $1.3M (respectively) that they’ll be playing for in ’06.
By my calculations, if Opening Day were tomorrow, the Reds’ payroll would come in at a little less than $57 million.
On Opening Day last season, it was $61.8 million. That counted Eric Milton at $5.3 million, but with his signing bonus, he made $8.5 million. So the actual payroll was closer to $65 million.
The Reds have maintained all along that the 2006 payroll would be at about the same level as last season’s.
So do the Reds have $5 million to $8 million to play with?
“How you compute the number and how we do are not the same,” Reds general manager Dan O’Brien said. “Our projections include everyone on the 40-man roster and the expenses associated with it. We have some limited (funds) to use.”
So, is OB just making excuses for not significantly improving the pitching staff or could he be waiting around for the new ownership group to take over?
But then Fay has an idea.
But if the Chicago White Sox are serious about dealing Jose Contreras, his $8.5 million salary shouldn’t prevent the Reds from trying to land him.
After all, that’s what Morris turned down.
I can’t find Contreras’ contract situation, other than he’s owed $8.5M for ’06.
Morris is going to be 31, Contreras is 33, at least. (Age records of Cuban born players are always open to question.)
In the last four years, Morris ERA+ is 104, 89, 111, and 114; Contreras is 123, 93, 80 (which does show that he’s getting better, but with his age, it’s tough to be confident that this trend will continue).
Both give up homers:
Morris: 22, 35, 20, 16
Contreras: 23, 31, 4
Despite this, Contreras does seem to keep the ball on the ground. (G/F%, 1.21, 1.07, 1.71).
In summation, if the Reds could get Contreras for one year at $8.5M, I’d suggest they take it. A rotation in 2006 with Contreras in the #1 slot, with Harang, Claussen, and Williams following him would be vastly improved on what they trotted to the mound in the recent past.
The only problem with this thinking is that you KNOW that they’re also going to give Wilson and Milton regular starts also. Wilson, when healthy, is usually steady at a little less than league average and we saw Milton last year. The problem is, unless the new ownership is willing to eat contracts (a la Danny Graves), these two guys are going to be in the rotation.
But back to Contreras…If there are 2 or more years left on his deal, I’d pass.
I just see no real way this team puts a competitive rotation on the field this year, without eating a large amount of contract money (i.e. Milton). Without dramatic improvement over last year’s rotation, I don’t see how this team can even finish above .500.