The Reds’ front office isn’t generating much news these days. It’s tedium and Ryan Mattheus on the Ohio River. That’s the sleepy nature of rebuild-reboot-recycle, at least as practiced on Joe Nuxhall Way. As a result, Reds fans have become serial users of the off-season snooze-button. Sure, we delight that the Cardinals are in trouble for cheating and the possibility that Major League Baseball will hammer them. But a fan can’t live on schadenfreude alone.

If you blinked (or more likely, covered your eyes) you missed the flicker of drama. The Reds traded two popular players for “near-major-league-ready” prospects. Otherwise, fans have been left to stew, hoping that “near” in that phrase modifies “ready” and not “major league.”

Oh, hey! On Saturday, the club recycled Pedro Villarreal on a minor league deal. Don’t everyone rush off to buy season tickets all at once.

With idle hands being what they are, how about instead we spend some of Bob Castellini’s money! Let’s take stock of where the 2016 payroll stands and how that impacts what might come next.

The $30 Million Surplus

When we last worked through the math, the Reds projected baseline payroll was $104.3 million. Since the end of October, that amount has been reduced by:

  1. Trading Todd Frazier and replacing him with Eric Jagielo (saving $7.65 million)
  2. Trading Aroldis Chapman and replacing him with a league-minimum salary pitcher (saving $12.3 million)
  3. Releasing Jason Bourgeios and replacing him with Scott Schebler (saving $300,000)

Again, this baseline projection assumes the Reds fill available roster spots with players earning league-minimum salaries. Those three moves represent a savings of about $20.3 million, which puts the up-to-date estimate for the Reds 2016 payroll at approximately $84 million. Trading Jay Bruce (would save $12 million) and/or Brandon Phillips (would save $12.5 million) would lower that number further.

The past two seasons, Reds CEO Bob Castellini authorized an Opening Day payroll in the neighborhood of $114-17 million. The Reds didn’t end up spending that much last year because of the mid-season trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake.

That means compared to recent payroll, the Reds have a $30 million surplus. That’s not the Powerball, but it’s not nothing.

The $30 million figure would be even higher if you assume a straight-line projection of the payroll increases we’ve seen since 2009. Remember new local TV contract revenues begin in 2017.

If you’re cynical, you might suspect Reds ownership will simply pocket the reboot-rebuild-recycle windfall. That’s possible and their right to do so. But Bob Castellini has earned the benefit of the doubt that he won’t. Year after year, Castellini has shown Reds fans the money. He’s backed up “we’re going to win” bravado with payroll walk. The Reds payroll-to-revenue ratio (52%) was sixth highest in baseball last year. This confidence might prove misplaced, but Bob Castellini strikes me as a guy who burns with competitiveness and will invest that money back into the club, in the direction his front office wise guys point him.

It’s frustrating to watch other organizations spend tens or hundreds of millions of dollars on free agents. But money doesn’t leverage championships through brute force like it did a decade or more ago. The connection isn’t zero, but the correlation between payroll and wins continues to decline. Those enormous contracts, because they fall well along a player’s aging curve, don’t bring equally big winning in lockstep. In a sense, they’re great equalizers — even truer in an era of drug testing and enforcement. The players producing the most WAR are twentysomethings, a few in their early 30s.

Smart decision-making, not wallet size, matters more than ever. That’s what the Reds face with the $30 million surplus — decisions.

Let’s analyze the pluses and minuses of the options. Keep in mind the strategies aren’t all exclusive. There’s enough money to choose a few.

High Draft Picks

The Reds own the #2 pick in the amateur draft in early June. Based on past years, the signing bonus will be around $6 million, maybe a little more. By comparison, last year the Reds paid the #11 pick, Tyler Stephenson, $3.1 million. The Reds also have the #1 Competitive Equity pick. It takes place at the end of the first round, after all the Qualifying Offer losses and gains are worked out. Last year, it was pick #37. The Astros paid a $4 million signing bonus to that player.

Pros: Kris Bryant

Cons: Danny Hultzen and Tyler Kolek

Seriously, this is how the Reds should and will spend some of their loot. If they don’t, it’s time to cheer for another team. Did I mention Kris Byrant?

Long-Term MLB Free Agents

The Reds could sign a free agent to a contract that extends beyond 2016. As examples, this could be a mid-priced player like Dexter Fowler ($56 million/4 years), or a more expensive player like Justin Upton ($120 million/6  years).

Pros: Player would be on the roster in 2017 and beyond, when the Reds plan to be competitive. Also, adding an impact free agent would help the Reds sell tickets be better on the field in 2016. Imagine Votto-Mesoraco-Upton-Bruce in the middle of the order for 2-3 years (Upton’s career OPS is 40 points higher than Todd Frazier’s, including a season hitting in San Diego). The Reds first round draft selection is protected this year by virtue of being a top ten pick, so relative to signing a QO free agent in a later year, the lost draft pick hit is smaller.

Cons: The better the Reds are in 2016, the worse their draft pick will be in 2017. The surplus would be “wasted” in part on the 2016 season. If the Reds sign a free agent with a Qualifying Offer attached, they would lose their competitive balance pick. If they wait and sign a long-term free agent next year, there’s a decent chance the draft selection will still be protected.

There is positive value to the Reds being better than otherwise in 2016, although the focus should remain on 2017 and beyond. An unexpected collapse in the market for a top player like Upton (28) might make the needle point in the direction of Makes Sense. Otherwise, there are better uses of the money.

Long-Term International Players

Think Raisel Iglesias ($27 million/7 years). His signing bonus was $5 million, spread out over several years.

Pros: Younger and cheaper than MLB free agents.

Cons: Less proven then MLB free agents.

Recent scouting successes with Aroldis Chapman and Raisel Iglesias offer hope the Reds can acquire meaningful help from international players. The key, as always, is finding the kind of player that has value – like a position player with power and plate discipline. In a related note, signs point to the Reds improving their overseas scouting.

One-Year Free Agents

The Reds could acquire good players who end up seeking a one-year deal. The club’s goal would be to trade them at the July deadline for attractive prospects. This strategy comes straight out of the Cubs recent rebuilding playbook.

Pros: Jake Arrieta and Addison Russell. Limited financial risk with a one-year contract. If successful trading the player, the cost is just a half-season salary.

Cons: The signee might have a bad first half or get injured. The Reds might botch the flip strategy. They might fall in love with the player based on a couple good months and talk themselves into keeping him (cough, cough, Bronson Arroyo). By the middle of 2016, with Homer Bailey back and innings limits largely resolved for the young guns, there’s no place in the rotation for another veteran taking up innings. The Reds need to sort out all their young arms. In fact, that’s the most important goal for the organization in 2016. The same could hold true signing an outfielder.

This could be a promising strategy for a hitter and/or a pitcher — even a closer. But only if you’re talking Jason Hammel not Jason Marquis. Can’t cut corners or fall victim to in-group bias.

Add Money to Future Trades to Improve the Return

If and when the Reds trade Jay Bruce and/or Brandon Phillips, they could sweeten the pot by offering to pay salary in exchange for better prospects. The Phillies did this last year when they unloaded traded Marlon Byrd to the Reds.

Pros: Better prospect improves odds of helping the Reds in the future. Nothing better to do with the money. One-time expenditure. Might make trade easier to sell for other team.

Cons: Prospects are uncertain things. It takes a trade partner to agree. Trades are already delicate enough to add complexity.

I thought the Reds might have tried this already, with either the Frazier or Chapman trades. Maybe they did. Spending a few million to boost the prospect quality is big-time worth it.

The Lockbox

The Reds could commit the surplus to future payroll. For example, say they took $25 million from 2016 and divided it equally between the 2017 and 2018 payrolls.

Pros: Other ways to spend the money aren’t promising. An extra $30 million in 2017-18 payroll would make a big difference in the Reds ability to sign impact free agent players.

Cons: There’s no such thing as a lockbox, sucker. Reds will already have more revenues in those out-years with the new FSO contract and because MLB is taking in money faster than they can count it.

See above comments re: Bob Castellini and burning passion for winning. If he says the money saved this year will be spent on top of what was already planned for 2017 and 2018, I trust him. Payroll would jump from $90 million this year to $145 million in 2017 and $155 million in 2018. I’d love to write the column with suggestions of spending that bankroll.

Gritty Acquisition of Grit

The Reds could sign veteran players to multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts for the purpose of grit transference. Likely former Cardinals or former Reds. It’s Jocketty’s signature move. Think Skip Schumaker and Jason Marquis.

Pros: Reinforces that special Reds brand.

Cons: Think Skip Schumaker and Jason Marquis.

No, no, no, please, no. Seriously, I would rather the Reds set the money on fire at home plate (imagine the promotional value) than pay for veteran grit. That’s not how any of this rebuilding or rebooting works. Of all the depressing, horrifying parts of the rebuild-reboot-recycle, “recycle” is the worst. Jerry, the worst.

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky’s Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve’s thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

Join the conversation! 48 Comments

  1. Great article that does a great job highlighting key options. I am also in the camp that trusts Bob to invest in winning. My only hope is that they use money wisely and avoid moves based on gut reaction and sentimentality. I’ve always loved the idea of rental players with upside to spin into more depth at midseason. I think relievers are a great place to work in that regard because a) teams always need them and b) the performance of a reliever, as we have seen, is not predictable. Bring in a reclamation project, let him close, and if things go well flip him midseason to one of the multitude of teams in need of bullpen help.

    The QO piece of this makes it interesting. Could be some great deals to be had as teams value draft picks more and more. That being said, I think the time to use it is when we don’t have the high CB pick. Next year since we most assuredly will still have a protected pick and can look for the right deal. There is a big advantage in the game today of having the protected first round pick.

    • If they used the QO strategy now, they’d still have the number #2 overall and the 2nd pick of the 2nd round in June 2016 which will be 2 in the top 40~45 at worst.

      It is better to strike while they know what the situation is than to hope for a more favorable situation next year. There are at least two complicating factors in support of making the move now.

      First, the MLB/MLBPA CBA expires after the 2016 season. Thus no one knows what the rules will be governing the 2017 draft. However, we do know that both sides are not satisfied with the current QO system and are calling for changes to it. It is a roll of the dice as to what those changes will be and how they will impact this strategy.

      Secondly, it is not a given that the Reds will “earn” protection for their 1st pick even if the system still provides that possibility. Consider how quickly the Reds fell off the end of earth. Who might be on such a slide this year? The cut line for bottom 10 figures to be around 75 wins. If the Reds pitching takes hold as many expect it to, 75 wins for them in 2016 isn’t really a total to be betting against. Here is 2015 for reference:
      http://www.baseball-reference.com/leagues/MLB/2015-standings.shtml

      • I’ve been saying all along, even with “losing” key pieces such as Frazier, Chapman and Cueto, the 2016 Reds won’t lose as many games as the 2015 team did. It would take massive injuries and none of the young pitchers improving. It’s possible they lose 100, but basically worst-case scenario. Don’t forget there will be several sad-sack NL teams trying to lose 100 with us (Braves, Brewers, Marlins, Phillies are all very capable 95+ loss teams in 2016, though the Marlins appear to have upside if Stanton and Fernandez are healthy). No way all those teams lose 100, well, there is a way, but it would break all kinds of records.

        • Three of your 100 loss suspects are in the same division. Each team in a division plays every other team in the division around 20 games (it was 19 in the NL Central in 2015). I’ll leave it to some of the real mathematicians that hang out here to figure out the nuances; I’d think that number of common games would make it pretty hard for all three to push 100 losses. 🙂

        • Ohio Jim, no matter what, it’s going to be interesting to see which tanking/rebuilding/rebooting teams really do stink and which ones can’t stink no matter how hard they try. I think the Reds will be the latter in 2016 and actually get a “decent” losing record…you know, respectable. If we can’t make the playoff, I’d rather we be one of the bad teams and get another top 3 pick to go with the coming one.

  2. I really like an Upton-Cave-Bruce outfield for the Reds in 2016 and beyond. An opt-out clause for Upton after 4 years on a 6 year deal would benefit both parties I believe. It would behoove the Reds management to get some offense to help the young pitchers development.
    Remember though, the CBA ends after the 2016 season, so there will definitely be some tweaks to the Qualifying Offer system in the new CBA. It will be hard to make long range plans factoring in ant QO plans without knowing how the new system will work after 2016.
    That makes getting Upton at a good price now even more astute.

    • I just don’t understand the idea of paying Upton the going FMV for several years where the Reds aren’t competitive and then giving him an out in the presumable period where the Reds might finally be competitive again. Given the way that salaries have been escalating, Upton would be very inclined to opt out of a contract just at the time when the Reds would need him. Wouldn’t the Reds be better off holding on to their money and giving time to their prospects until they are closer to their window opening?

  3. The International route:
    I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago and his eligibility will be decided this month by MLB. He is supposed to have a highly anticipated workout among 20 or so teams scouts this week in the DR.
    Cuban 16-year old OF Lazaro “Lazarito” Armenteros is being compared to a 16 year old Bryce Harper. It’ll depend on how MLB rules on his eligibility though as he may not be able to sign with a team until next year.
    Some of the major teams have already spent their international allotment, so the Reds chances are a bit better, if he is ruled eligible now. And the Reds seem to have a Cuban Connection of some sorts.

    • A team that has reached its limit can still go above the limit and accept the penalty. It may deter some, but if a team like the Dodgers wants to keep spending beyond the limit nothing will stop them

      • According to this article, the Cubs, Yankees, Rangers, Red Sox and Rays are all over the limit from prior years and cannot spend above their reduced slot amounts this year. The article describes how the Yankees made a farce of the International signing limit by exceeding it by 610%. Other teams have also done it to sign top talent, just not to the degree the Yankees did. This is an opportunity for the Reds to do the same with the money they now have available. Hope there are some players worth it.
        http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=25149

    • He has been declared an FA and can be signed on or after 10 Feb 2016.

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2016/01/cuban-lazarito-armenteros-free-agent-mlb.html

      The luxury tax is 100% for each $$ a team goes over its limit in the signing period.

  4. Great article. Put me in the camp of spending that $$$ on international players plus one free agent such as Fowler.

  5. My first priority would be to invest heavily in scouting and development, particularly for Latin American hitters. The Reds haven’t developed a top-notch Latin American hitter since Tony Perez, or in 50 years. Even a team that purposely discriminated against Latin Americans would do better than that.

    A lot can be done, without spending a lot of money. First, every minor league team should have a strength and conditioning guy on staff. There are plenty of qualified people out there, and it is an easy improvement to make. It would be nice, for example, if Billy Hamilton had shown up two years ago with about 15 more pounds of muscle on him. Second, a nutritionist or meal planner for every team would help. If they want the younger guys to develop, then they can at least feed them right, instead of hoping that they get some extra bounce out of a large order of McDonald’s fries every day.

    Third, they should find a way–both in the minors and among amateurs–to measure a lot of the things that are now only being measured for major leaguers. Things like velocity of the ball off the bat, bathead speed, etc. The sooner you pinpoint your minor leaguers’ strengths and weaknesses, the better.

    Fourth, hire the best hitting and pitching coaches, at all levels of the minor leagues, and pay them more than any other team pays their guys. Or, perhaps hire extra coaches and rotate them as needed. The general idea is to hire good teachers, pay them well, and let them teach. (And for that matter, hire good people to teach the Latin players English–it will pay off in the long run.)

    Finally, be the first team to step up and pay minor leaguers much more than the minimum salaries. All teams essentially pay less than minimum wage for the low minors. Engender some loyalty and professionalism by giving them all a $5,000 year raise.

    The Reds as a middle-market team will only succeed in the long run with an elite farm system. The cost would be much less than one year of Sean Marshall.,so make the investment and commit to the investment.

    • Lot of good stuff here. I especially like #2 (strength/ conditioning/ nutrition) and #3.

      And of course it follows they need to pay more downstream.

    • Lots of good non-roster suggestions here. I’d add to that: Whatever it takes to increase coordination and supervision of the minor league program. I’ve heard complaints from people working for Reds affiliates that the parent club does little monitoring or directing of the progress of the minor league players, compared with other organizations. The “roving” instructors are often little more than PR window dressing. There is a lack of consistency for teaching points – for example, I’ve heard that the pitching coaches at each level preach different, often conflicting, instruction methods. There is no central set of specific guidelines for how to develop players. In some organizations, the general manager makes sure this happens. I’ve heard that Walt Jocketty has shown little interest in any of this.

      • Sort of what the LA Dodgers did with Gabe Kapler when he became their Director of Player Development, aka the director of minor league teams. He initiated a plan where the Major League team pays for all the pre-game meals for the minor league players, at EACH level. Home and away games. He has each minor league team cater in the meals and then goes the extra mile with almost entirely organicly grown foods. After only one year, the minor league players in the Dodgers organization give it a big thumbs up.
        Definitely, the organization’s offensive and pitching philosophies need to be consistent at each level. That was another thing Kapler made sure was happening in LA’s minors system.

      • Ugh, if that is true Steve, it’s very sad. That all starts with the owner and his trusted GM. As a mid-market team, you’d think they’d be very cognizant of taking the talent they have and improving them more cheaply internally than trying to find them expensively elsewhere (trades, free agency).

        I actually thought Krivsky and O’Brien were solid GMs. It seemed like we were finally repairing the damage of the Schott era where paying scouts to watch baseball seemed silly to Marge.

        I hope GM Williams might have some postive impact on that. It would explain why OUR prospects don’t get better and get promoted VERY slowly compared to other teams. Our rookies are 24 or 25 or 26, while others rookies are 21 or 22. It’s all so aggravating.

  6. Hopefully the Reds reinvest now, otherwise 40% of that excess payroll just goes to our favorite player Uncle Sam.

    • Not necessarily. They likely have operating losses from previous years that would offset much of that profit.

  7. This is a good summary Steve. There’s one option that isn’t included here, that I wrote about last year here: http://redlegnation.com/2015/04/28/the-low-cost-of-big-contracts/.

    The last option is to try to lock up young players to inexpensive extensions so that the Reds get those twentysomething years, instead of spending big money on free agents for their thirtysomething years.

    The Reds have two position players and at least one starting pitcher that may be candidates for this: Hamilton, Suarez, and Desclafani. Hamilton had a 2 win season with a .274 OBP and a 3.5 win season with a .294 OBP because of his elite defense and baserunning. He’s only 25, and his value couldn’t be lower right now. Would the Hamilton take $30M for the next 6 years? Five? Either way, the Reds would get a ton of value.

    Suarez had a good start for the Reds, but the opposite of Hamilton in that he could hit but played very bad D. He looks like a solid bet to be a league average player though, and getting him locked up for the next 6 years would be great value as well.

    Desclafani had the best year of the three, and would probably be the least likely to sign a way below market deal. But you never know, players understand the risks of the game, and there’s no reason not to see what he’s looking for.

    • I agree on Disco. If they are honest with themselves, a pitcher knows it is likely when rather than if for some sort of middling to major arm involved injury. I’d think a guy a still a year short of arb would go for a reasonable 5 year deal.

      I see Hamilton as potentially damaged goods coming off the shoulder injury. They shouldn’t be putting any more than minimum money into him until it is clear the fix has taken and he can still throw well enough to play CF.

    • No way I would commit long-term money to Billy Hamilton right now. There’s no rush this offseason to sign Suarez or DeSclafani long-term, either. There isn’t enough evidence yet that the Reds want any of these players past their arbitration years. Maybe in a year or two, that kind of deal might make sense. The Reds extended Johnny Cueto and Jay Bruce as each player was heading into his first arbitration season. Even if they did contract extensions now, it wouldn’t really affect the $30 million 2016 surplus.

      • I disagree, it would effect the surplus. With each of those players the Reds plan on paying them league minimum or there about in 2016. But, if they offered them an extension now, for say 6 years, 30M they would presumably pay some of that in 2016, thus raising the payroll next year in a losing year.

        The idea obviously would be that by giving a player security and paying more now, you end up paying a lot less in the long run. It’s using money now to save money for when the Reds need it, which is when they are competitive again and maybe a player or two away from being great.

        • When these contract extensions get negotiated (at least the Reds) they end up paying the player what they would have earned anyhow in team control years. Homer Bailey actually took about $1 million less in his last control year when he signed his extension. The advantage to the player isn’t more money in the short run, it’s guaranteed money in the long run.

          The club only saves money if the player is above average in their beyond-arbitration years – like Evan Longoria and Johnny Cueto. Yes, if Billy Hamilton becomes a 5 WAR player, signing him for $12 million in his first free agent season provides a lot of value for the Reds. If Hamilton is a 1.5 WAR player, it doesn’t save them anything. That’s why I said there was no urgency now. The Reds don’t know enough about how Hamilton, DeSclafani and Suarez will be FIVE years from now to lock into $30 million contracts. They just aren’t the Longoria/Cueto types of players, yet.

        • Just because something happened in the past doesn’t mean it always has to happen. The Reds paid Homer less in his last year of team control, but there is no reason that they have to do that for everyone.

          You wrote an article about how the Reds could use their current surplus to help them in the future, and I outlined another way. They could spend it on extensions. As I wrote in my article last summer, it would be a novel approach for a lot of teams, including the Reds, to give long extensions very early in player’s careers. You are right, there is no need to do it now, it is not urgent, but that misses the point.

          The longer you wait, the more like a free agent contract the extension will have to look. By signing extensions when there is no urgency, you can potentially end up with some of the most valuable contracts. Arbitration raises can be huge. Over the last few years of the Reds playoff window, what fans heard every offseason was that we couldn’t afford top free agenct talent because of arbitration raises. Further, once a player has a breakout year, say goodbye to a team-friendly contract.

          For a player like Billy, if you lock him in now at less than the cost of 1 WAR on the free agent market per year, you are unlikely to regret that because his defense can put that up on its own. If he has a breakout year though, you have him for dirt cheap, which protects you budget in later years. When you want to add free agent talent later, you don’t have to worry that if Hamilton puts up a big year, he’s going to command a huge raise.

          In the Reds case, spending now to protect the budget in 2017 and beyond makes sense.

  8. Great article. I come here more now because the reds site absolutely sucks. Last news was Chapman’s trade.

    Unfortunately, the reds will sign over the hill ex cardinals and reds for no reason. Bronson should never be brought back unless it’s long relief. Keep the lineup & rotation young and commit to the building process.

  9. Great to start thinking forward. I agree about getting a dependable offensive contributor now instead of later if the right one is available with the idea of gearing up for 2017. However, I would make the priority in building out the back office organization. Put 10 million of that into the behind the scenes part of the organization to be the best in baseball or close to it. I don’t think that should be interns of family and friends kid either. Serious overachievers no matter what school they come from that have a drive for success. My guess is that might improve the organization much more than 10 million on a player. There is also a glut of outfielders this year, and the Reds wouldn’t lose a 1st round pick if they signed a fa. I would not touch any more 100+ million deals. I would personally like to see someone for a 4 year deal around 60 million dependable outfielder or +2 type starter. I would stay away from Upton. He never appears to be in the best shape. Talented, but what will his 30’s look like. (Griffey Jr. haunts me) To me Reds offense should be simple. Get guys to get on base in 1&2 spots. Protect Votto with more than a swing and miss guy at 5&6 and you should be formidable regardless of 8 hitter etc…Sounds easy right lol…

  10. Great article! I think I pass this year on free agents unless there is a need position and go with the young players to see what we have. Then, fill in the needs.

  11. I like all of the options, but I do not see signing free agents as one for the Reds.

    When Dusty was here, he was proud of how many free agents that he would bring to Cincy, guys that wanted to play for him. but we signed no one of significance.

    Our last significant free agent was Coco Cordero, who we overpayed for at 4/$44 million.

    I would think that there would be a lot of position players who would want to play at GABP.

    but they do not end up signing with us. I would love a Fowler or Upton since I did not get that pony for Christmas.

    But i think a better use of my time will be plotting my brackets for March Madness

    I do not see the Reds signing any free agents of note. I welcome the chance to be wrong, and this is a great year to do if for the reasons above.

    However, remember who is in the front office

    • Yes indeed. The key to all the machinations for 2016 and beyond lies in the front office.

  12. You are assuming revenue will increase as it has in the past. The revenue model will be under pressure for the next couple of years, due to more losses and lower attendance.

    • New TV contract, more money from MLB, more money from revenue sharing.

  13. Looks like they might be spending some of that 30 million on this new Cuban SS

    http://m.reds.mlb.com/news/article/161639722/reds-agree-to-deal-with-alfredo-rodriguez

    • According to that article, it looks like the Reds blew all their extra international slot allowance in 2016 to sign a slick fielding, fast player who can’t hit. Another Billy Hamilton type. This isn’t what I had in mind in advocating the Reds make use of their favorable slotting in the international signing market.

  14. Here’s some info on the new guy:

    http://www.baseballamerica.com/international/alfredo-rodriguez-gold-glove-shortstop-rookie-year-leaves-cuba/

    The keys seem to be:

    1) Rodriguez, 21, has a long way to go as a hitter but was arguably the best defensive shortstop in Cuba.

    2) If Rodriguez gets to the major leagues, he likely will never hit higher than the bottom of the order, if his righthanded bat improves enough to get him there. In 84 games this past season for La Isla De La Juventud, Rodriguez batted .265/.301/.284 with three doubles, one triple, no home runs, 11 walks and 38 strikeouts in 304 plate appearances.

  15. I’m not Bob C….but for a moment, I’m going to pretend to be.

    Right now, my payroll is 30 million less than it was a year ago. I sold 3,000 season ticket packages last year that were largely ASG related and they won’t be renewing….so at a minimum I’m projecting my attendance to go down about 250,000….that’s a loss of 7 million in revenue….so now the ” surplus” is 23 million.

    I have no cable deal after this year. I have no leverage since there isn’t a NBA-NHL team to partner with and I have one option. I can’t make any reasonable financial projections beyond this year.

    It’s likely going to take 100 wins to win the division and at least 92 to win a WC. Can a piece together a roster with a 112 million payroll that will get me to 92 plus wins while playing 40% of my games against 3 of the best teams in baseball? Probably not.

    My farm system is improved, but in order to have sustained success, I need it to be amongst the best on an on going basis. Is my best return on investment likely to be a substantial investment in minor league infrastructure? Absolutely.

    If my team is bad, I draw 2 million…if they’re good I draw 2.5 million. That’s only 15-20 million in incremental revenue….about what Upton or Fowler would cost. Winning isn’t going to provide the revenue to keep winning. I need a best in class player development system.

    • Your assumptions about revenue are too static from sources other than attendance. TV contract, MLB sales, revenue sharing – all those sources are going up. Can’t just look at the attendance piece.

    • Not out of the question that the Reds, if they get creative, they can try to partner with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Unless they are tied in with the Indians already.

  16. Steve, I believe there was an analysis in Forbes that reported the Reds were one of the few teams to lose money in 2013 or 2014 (I don’t recall which year). It was a substantial sum, I think on the order of $13-million. Is it possible that the Reds were underwater last year too? If the Reds are/were already losing money, it’s possible that they may not spend that saved money. I hope that isn’t the case but the thought has crossed my mind. Any rumblings about how the cable deal negotiations are going? I haven’t seen or heard anything.

  17. The more we accept 2016 as a washout, the faster this will change. The Reds need get a couple things in order first. 1) Vastly improve international scouting. 2) Vastly improve minor league player development — especially hitting. Work on a Reds way of batting, similar to the Cardinal’s approach. 3) Pump some money into analytics to find and extract the most value from every transaction. I once heard that good generals study strategy and great generals study logistics. The Reds have logistical issues that lead to a flawed, but talented roster. Some significant changes in the capabilities of scouting, player development, and analytics could change this trend.

  18. Steve, great read. Thanks for putting it together in broke out, flowing manner.

    I am stoked about the draft. I just hope we don’t get the rotten egg, but instead end up with the better of the top two drafted players.

    I hope they sign a couple of one-year deal relievers and flip them at the deadline. A one-year deal starter would be good too, some pitcher that was back from injury in 2015, but never really got back to old form. They’re ripe for improvement and trading for a high level prospect come July 29 or so…

    I wrote my thoughts on saving payroll now and spending it later in another article comment. I read yours after, but I feel good about Castellini (who makes Linder and Schott look like dustbowl farmers scrounging in the dirt for that nickel that fell. I have been commenting over and over about clearing payroll now (and for next year) in order to be REAL players on FA market in 2017 or 2018, when they figure to have 12-15 cheap, young players and needing to mix in another GOOD NOW, in their prime impact (starting) FA or two.

    This is what the Braves are going to do. Clearing out EVERYTHING that makes a more than the minimum and readying for the new stadium and big revenues. In fact, the Braves and Reds will likely compete for a big time FA or two in two seasons, since it would seem their rebuilds will coincide a bit.

    • Nick Markakis?

      • Well, no, I said BIG TIME free agents. If you meant the Braves aren’t clearing everyone, yeah, thats true, I did a blanket statement, but they still have Freeman (not been what they thought he’d be to this point) and the highly overrated Markakis (that was a dumb signing from the word go).

        Other than that though, they have a pretty clean payroll. Check out Cot’s contracts for money committed in 2017 and 2018 when the new stadium is opened. They are going to have 60 or 70 million to spend on FAs and extensions for good young players.

  19. According to FanGraphs, 1.0 of WAR is projected at $8.4M for 2016, and the commonly-used projection is for it to rise 5% per year going forward.

    Without being too wordy, Billy Hamilton is currently around a 2.0 WAR player. Even taking into account aging curves, he could very possibly remain at/close to a 2.0 WAR in 2019 (his age 29 year), when 1.0 WAR is projected to be worth $9.7M.

    It would seem prudent to use some of the current surplus to lock Hamilton down to a below (WAR) market value contract over the next 4-6 years.

    Imagine if the new Collective Bargaining Agreement brings forth such harmony that baseball inflation rises further in coming years, pushing future WAR above 5% increases annually. Crazy (and a little scary).

    • That seems way too high for a WAR. A 3.0 WAR player is valued at $25 million? you’d need 5 or 6 of those to have a good team and thats $150 million plus payroll for just 6 players. I guess if you are paying minimum for another 10 players that have negative WARs, you could get a contender together for $170 million or so? If so, the Reds should give up now.

      I think Fangraphs was smoking some legal pot.

      • Replacement players get you 48 wins a year. The $8 million figure for 2016 is based on what teams actually pay free agents. It isn’t made up.

    • oops, I was wrong, I admit it. Obviously to be a contender, you only need 3 or 4 WAR team wise (say 85 wins makes you a contender, albeit a second wildcard one), so you can be a contender with just 2 or 3, 3.0 WAR players if you don’t have too many negative WAR players. I guess $8.5 million is more accurate than I thought, maybe I was smoking legal pot? Worse, maybe I was smoking something that I thought was legal pot but was just real weeds?

  20. I wonder what John Hart is doing, is he available? Aw right, he’s busy remaking the Atlanta Braves. There’s someone the Reds need as GM. Too bad the Red’s front office is full of owner’s sons instead of capable, seasoned baseball people.

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About Steve Mancuso

Steve grew up in Cincinnati as a die-hard fan of Sparky's Big Red Machine. After 25 years living outside of Ohio, mostly in Ann Arbor, he returned to the Queen City in 2004. He has resumed a first-person love affair with the Cincinnati Reds and is a season ticket holder at Great American Ball Park. The only place to find Steve's thoughts of more than 140 characters is Redleg Nation. Follow his tweets @spmancuso.

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