So, it’s been a rough year. Nothing like the year I thought we’d see. At least, not so far. Though, fortunately, the Reds finally have an actual winning streak going right now. But the issues present with this team are being made painfully clear. Finnegan has been sent down to make room for Matt Harvey of all people and Homer, it seems, may not actually be able to pitch effectively over long stretches. The Reds are going to enter the offseason with very clear needs.

Not only is there no reason we shouldn’t expect those needs to be addressed, it is completely fair to expect the Reds to spend A LOT of money to address them.

Reds fans have gotten used to being a small market team, but I think that’s a mindset we need to shake. I have a piece on The Hardball Times today where I argue (among other things) that the owners are no longer 30 people with competing interests. Rather, they are 30 shareholders seeking to maximize league profits. Something they are doing very well.

I do not care about MLB profits. As long as it doesn’t go broke, I will never care how much money MLB makes. I do not care how much its fabulously wealthy owners make. I do care about watching quality baseball and having an ownership group that is trying to win instead of pretending to be poor.

Since the advent of the luxury tax, player share of revenue has decreased from 55% to about 40%. That means the average team, right now, would have to increase it’s current payroll by 37.5% just to reach pre-luxury tax levels. And we haven’t even talked about the new TV deal or the ways teams pretend various revenue streams aren’t revenue generated by baseball.

The Reds are privately controlled and cannot be compelled to open their books. However, the circumstantial evidence that they (and every other team) are making enormous profits is overwhelming. Given then, I see no reason any fan should believe a team when they claim to not be able to afford a certain player. I have spent a lot of goodwill on this team as have most of you. It’s now up to the Reds to decide whether or not to pay it back.

I am quite happy with Romano, Castillo, and Mahle as the core of the rotation, but beyond that there’s no one who feels certainly ready or able to pitch in the big leagues right now. The old saying is that you can’t have too much pitching, and I agree. There should be some real depth to the system and the Reds should pay for it. The Reds have a payroll of $101M. I’d like to see that go up to around $150M. We’ve been told there’s money to spend and there’s a new TV deal. So let’s see the money.

Some of you might argue that free agents – especially pitchers – are bad investments. Here’s my argument: I don’t care. Other pitchers will move up through the system and provide additional depth, but almost no team is able to build a staff with only home-grown talent. Of course, I’m also fine with the Reds acquiring players via trade. They have a lot of mid-level depth, and that’s good for making trades. A pitcher will absolutely get hurt or fail to perform. That’s a given. If it’s someone making a lot of money, it’ll be a little extra frustrating, but what the Reds need is to get beyond the point where they say, “If Bailey, Finnegan, and Disco are all ready to go, we feel good about our rotation.” Instead, it needs to be, “We feel good about our rotation, and even if someone gets hurt, we know we have players who are ready to step in when called upon.” There’s a big difference between those two statements. It’s time for the Reds to show us they understand the difference.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 36 Comments

  1. Then why didn’t we sign Arrieta this year and at least tread water, it is depressing coming in dead last. Arrieta was signed at the end of FA by Philadelphia of all teams, and suddenly they are respectable. I have no faith they will spend money next season… they will try to do something to make fans interested, but like this year they try to focus on the youth movement.

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  2. The organization pedals too much wishful thinking on the ifs. IF DeSclafani and Finnegan pitch like we expect them to, they said. IF a healthy Bailey pitches like we believe he can, they said. Castillo is someone we will rely heavily on and we expect him to do well, they said. Well, predictably DeSclafani can’t stay healthy; Finnegan when healthy hasn’t been worth poo; Bailey, though healthy, is unsurprisingly, at his best, mediocre; Castillo, who was whizzed through the minors, is now struggling as the sample size expands. Until the Reds quit putting their eggs in the basket of high risk players (and you can now throw Harvey into that mix), the organization will not be tasting success anytime soon. You need to work to mitigate these risks not by signing rejects from other teams, but by signing a couple of solid pitchers (not necessarily aces) to stabilize the rotation (and yes, that will require a greater financial investment). Hey, you can rebuild without doing that, but just don’t start propagating this silly idea that this year is going to be a lot better than last year when you are rolling out guys who have a history of ineffectiveness and/or injury.

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  3. You actually think Bob Castellini is going to open up his wallet and spend big this winter? Poppycock. He didn’t have to spend big to get the best free agent pitcher on the market that wasn’t named Otani this past winter. When the Reds get rid of their Friends & Family front office, they will finally amount to something.
    I railed all fall and winter for the Reds to sign little known free agent pitcher Miles Mikolas, now with the Cardinals on a modest 2 year $15MM deal. What has Mikolas done but go 5-0 so far and be the best free agent pitching acquisition. Only 3 BB’s so far on the season. That is the usual BB allowed for a Reds starter in 5 innings of work. What a huge difference Mikolas would have made to the Reds rotation. Instead that difference went to the Cardinals. And Reds GM Dick Williams wasn’t even interested in Mikolas, like most Reds fans. This is a big fail on the Reds front office not identifying Mikolas as a very affordable target. Mikolas was right in their price range, yet the Reds failed to even make an offer.
    The free agent route this coming winter will be fraught with likely misses.
    This past winter’s top free agent starting pitchers so far this year.
    Otani 3-1 record.
    Yu Darvish, which I think you advocated for, is 0-3. Dreadful so far.
    Jake Arrieta 3-1.
    Lance Lynn 1-3.
    Alex Cobb 0-4.
    Tyler Chatwood 2-3.
    Andrew Cashner 1-4.
    Jaime Garcia 2-2.
    Jhoulys Chacin 3-1.
    If the Reds go out and do something for the rotation, the trade route might be a better way. The Reds front office continually displays the fact that they are not good at evaluating talent.

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    • Props, WV, you were pushing the Reds to sign Mikolas.

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    • There will always be players who suddenly break out, but once they reach free agency, they should primarily be judged on past performance because they are generally past the developmental stages. You correctly ID’d a good pitcher, which is awesome. But I bet you Darvish, who’s peripherals are still pretty great ends up with a good season. His ERA is a run higher than his FIP and two runs higher than his FIP. That’s pretty much impossible to maintain over a full season and doesn’t track at all with what he’s done during the rest of his carer.

      Or, to put it succinctly, judging a 6-year deal on 6 starts is silly.

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    • You spotted Mikolas and I sure didn’t. I thought it was a “neat” idea when you floated it and relatively low risk but had no idea he’d been half as good as he has been. I thought Chatwood may be a good fit for the Reds but he came in at more $$ than I thought he’d sign for.

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  4. Jason,

    I don’t know what you do for a living, but it comes across clearly in this article and the one at Hardball Times that you are not involved in business much, if at all.

    Because you don’t know or don’t care about profits and running successful businesses, it comes across as preachy and/or naive to tell the rest of us that we need to “shake a small market mindset.”

    The readers here at RLN are very sharp. We know Castellini and the 500 other minority owners should spend more on the Reds. They don’t.

    The small market owners have bought in to being vassals of the large market teams….take the revenue sharing, share in the national TV deals….and get a small contention window once a decade. (St. Louis is not small market, not in TV deal nor with the Ballpark Village revenues, which aren’t shared).

    Castellini is content to lick his MLB masters’ hands and take their money. Even fans not going to the games does not matter to him. He will just run a small enough payroll to ensure his profit margin, grow it only when contracts expire (bye Mes, bye Homer).

    When the owners of the Reds, Rays, Pirates, Royals and a few other small markets finally demand a NFL-style relationship (competitors on the field, equal revenue partners off it), then the world you envision might come about.

    Until then, lay off blaming us. We are suffering through arguably the worst stretch in the history of the Reds and still watching and still caring.

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    • I’m not seeing where Jason has blamed anyone other than the ownership group for anything. I read his frustration with the current economics of baseball, which I think is shared by a pretty large number of folks, myself included. Sports franchises are typical bought by ridiculously wealthy people and run, in my opinion, as an extension of their ego. The only franchise I know of that is run strictly as a business, for profit, is the Bengals. No one wants to see the Reds go down the path of Mike Brown, where it’s treated as a cash cow with secondary concerns for fielding a competitive product. Bob Castellini did say that he was buying the Reds in order to win championships. He stated that day one. My take on Jason’s article is that he’s calling out ownership to put up what they promised. What we’ve seen thus far is a nepotistic regime running the rebuild without the folks in the front office who’ve been proven to pull it off. We’ve seen half measures and false starts over the last four seasons. Unfortunately unless some major strides are made pitching wise, they’re still at least two seasons away from seriously being competitive. The offense is serviceable, but the starting pitching is awful as a unit.

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    • I shouldn’t speak for Jason, but my take on his point is this: Baseball is entertainment. I know it’s also a business, but I’m watching it because it’s entertaining, so I don’t really care about why an owner won’t spend to upgrade the entertainment; I only care that losing is not often entertaining. Castellini may be content with a bad team and dwindling attendance since his revenue isn’t very dependent upon fans coming to the games, but at some point, a lousy product will fail. If enough fans lose interest in baseball, it’s hard to imagine that large tv contracts won’t be affected.

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    • I didn’t see where Jason was blaming anyone but owners either. And as a fan, no I don’t care about an owner’s profit margin. If you are looking for big profits go into a business that can produce big profits. If you want to own a baseball team then put a good team on the field. Most of us want to see good baseball played and if we end up with a wild card game every so many years we won’t care if they are one of the best teams in baseball, JUST PUT A COMPETITIVE TEAM ON THE FIELD. If that involves bringing a free agent pitcher in to help, then do it. If it involves making a trade do it. Just don’t expect fans to support an annually bad baseball team.

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    • Well, I was about to reply, but everyone else already did it for me. So yes, what Ken, Green, and Scott said.

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    • another reason to NOT care about whether an owner is seeing big profits or the franchise, we know the asset values of ALL MLB franchises has shot up dramatically the past 20 years. Even crappy teams with little history of winning are well over 500 million and some nearing a Billion dollars. Good teams well over a billion and some over 2 Billion (and more).

      Bottom line, the owners are ALL see a nice capital gain. Even though they have not sold, much like when we see our own houses rise in value, we FEEL like we’re turning a nice little profit (expenses and interest and taxes and insurance aside of course).

      These owners have no obvious reason to pinch pennies. The money is flowing in, teams with lower payrolls are making MORE percentage profit than higher payroll teams (perhaps Yankees, Red Sox and Cubs aside) because of all the revenue sharing and other discounts (claiming to lose money, getting tax breaks, etc).

      Bottom line, none of us should waste a minute of time thinking about franchis profits and free-cash flow because they’ll never share it with fans and if we do get some info, it will be mostly false or at the very least, quite misleading.

      I just hope my fellow fans stop going to the ballpark if they don’t get this rebuild back on solid footing with future upside and contention. No sense if giving any more ticket/food/beer/parking/souvenir money to Castellini and fellow minority owners till we see real improvements.

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  5. I agree, so lets say the FO say’s let’s make some major upgrade’s and spend 50 million in roster upgrades this offseason:

    Lineup spending 50 million in 19′ offseason (with my guess on contract/year:

    Rotation:
    1. Gio Gonzalez (20m per year for ? yrs)
    2. Luis Castillo
    3. Tyler Mahle
    4. JA Happ (13 m per year 2 yrs)
    5. Sal Romano

    Lineup
    1. Jesse Winker – LF
    2. Nick Senzel – 2b
    3. Joey Votto – 1b
    4. Eugenio Suarez – 3b
    5. Scott Schebler – RF
    6. AJ Pollock – CF (17 m per year for ? yrs)
    7. Tucker Barnhart – C
    8. Jose Peraza – SS

    Bullpen
    1. Iglesias
    2. Garrett
    3. Finnegan
    4. Hughes
    5. Peralta
    6. Hernandez
    7. Lorenzen
    8. Floro

    We could also trade Raisel Iglesias for Walker Buehler? I’m sure they’d say no.

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    • I’m going to throw out a wild trade idea, because it’s Friday and I’m tired of work: Homer Bailey, Adam Duvall and Billy Hamilton to SF for Heliot Ramos, Steven Duggar, Hunter Pence and Mark Melancon

      I think this keeps them under the penalty threshold and lowers our payroll for next year by about 19 million.

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      • We could probably add Robert Stephenson to make it work. $’s Bailey 55 million owed, Hamilton appx 5 million this year and 7 million next = about 70 million

        Pence 18.5 million owed for 18′ & Melancon 21m, 14m, 14m = 67.5 million

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      • I can’t imagine the Giants would ever do that. And I can’t imagine the Reds would take on Melancon’s contract.

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        • You might be right. Both teams taking on some difficult contracts. Sure would be a nice, but near impossible thing, to relieve the payroll of Homer contract.

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    • your roster is still a sub 500 team. unfortunately reds fans don’t come to the games unless they are in first place and even then it is a iffy proposition. take the jay bruce pennant clinching game in 2010. the stadium was half empty!
      why will ownership pay the 50 million to upgrade.

      I actually don’t blame ownership. fans need to start going to more games

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    • I vote you for General Manager. Love this staff and team.

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    • I like the idea of adding Gonzalez and Pollock. Two pretty large moves that would definitely improve the team in areas of need, but also wouldn’t seem to break the bank.

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  6. I just wonder that if we trade Iglesias why not transition Homer to the bullpen? I know he would be an expensive relief pitcher but also could also be a fantastic closer. Probably not the first to think this but with all his arm has been through that sounds like a workable solution.

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  7. Jason;

    I enjoy working with numbers. Last year I did the following; using announced Bengal attendance versus seating capacity for all home games.. If you subtract announced attendance from seating capacity for the 2017 season the Bengals played 7 quarters of football in front of zero home fans. Using the same process for the 2018 reds; seating capacity for 21 home games minus announced attendance shows that the Reds played almost 13 home games (61%) in an empty stadium (zero fans). The eyeball test would suggest that it is more like 15 of the 21 home games were played in front of zero fans.

    Just a random thought

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  8. Only in the world of baseball in 2018 can we celebrate the fact that we “might” have three starters who are capable of going 5 innings per start and allowing two runs or less. Starting pitchers are too expensive, too coddled and too fragile.If you spend money, spend it on the bullpen and develop a corps of pitchers who have shown durability, good stuff and tenacity. Build your pitching staff from the back to the front. The only problem is you need to identify and establish these roles for any pattern of success and the Reds have failed to do that with Finnegan. Lorenzen, Reed, Stephenson and (I fear) Garrett.

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  9. Folks I have seen it opined and even seen players quoted over the years that FA’s won’t play for the Reds!!!! That being true I really can’t say but there is enough truth there it is obvious players would rather play in St.Louis or Philly!!! I think it is because of ownership but some of the talking heads blame it on the city!!!!! I grew up a Reds fan and Cincinnati has always been a baseball town!!!!

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  10. I just don’t see the current ownership spending lots of money. And traditionally the Reds have never been big spenders when it comes to free agents. There is no question that the Reds should have went after Arrieta to help this young pitching staff but they didn’t. Instead they trade for Matt Harvey of all people. The Reds philosophy for 40 plus years has been throw something against the wall and hope it sticks and that includes this “rebuild”.

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  11. Hah, it’s funny I thought it said “Castillo’s Money” until I looked at it a second time.

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  12. I agree. I could care less about the Reds balance sheet. However, what bothers me is that they have no direction with the $ they spend. They trade Mez, which I’m fine with, if it’s a salary dump where you spend the money elsewhere. But as it turns out, it was just so they could see if they could take a washed up alcoholic pitcher and try to get him to pitch well so they can flip him for a AAA pitcher at the deadline. Whats the plan? The rest of 2018 should be about:
    1. Castillio, Mahler, Romano, Garrett, Stephenson? Who’s a starter, a bullpen guy, or a AAAA guy?
    2. Hamilton, Schebler, Duvall, Winker? Take 2, trade 2.

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  13. Finally someone who shares my skepticism about how much money the Reds have. No one will ever truly know though bcuz of what you basically said in the article about not being able to force them to come forth and open up their books. Just kinda makes you wonder what they’re NOT telling us. Maybe they don’t owe us that, I don’t know, I guess that could be debated but that’s not something I’m interested in doing.

    Anyway, let’s focus on something that you said that might actually be fun to talk about. You said that the Reds payroll right now is about $101-million and that you’d like to see it go up to $150-million. So…how many quality FA’s could the Reds realistically sign for $49-million dollars? Obviously we’re looking for a combination of quantity AND quality. WHO would be the quality or impact FA’s you think we could sign for that amount? Do you think we should spend all or most of that money on one mega FA or not? Whatever your opinion is the debate is open I guess (I may of just started something here, lol).

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  14. The Reds did extend Suarez, which is a pretty good get.

    He’s been injured too, but I just wish Cueto would have continued his career in Cincy. He’s the best pitcher the Reds developed since Mario Soto. Eh…it’s just baseball.

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  15. So true Jason. “Reds fans have gotten used to being a small market team, but I think that’s a mindset we need to shake. I have a piece on The Hardball Times today where I argue (among other things) that the owners are no longer 30 people with competing interests. Rather, they are 30 shareholders seeking to maximize league profits. Something they are doing very well.”

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  16. When a ML team is up for sale there are many prospective owners falling all over themselves to buy it, large, mid or small market teams, successful and unsuccessful it doesn’t matter. Reds fans need to wake up and realize Bob Castellini and the Reds have money and make money. If he cries poor the fans need to demand that he open the audited financial statements of the Reds to the public.

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  17. I do not know why the Reds fan base keeps giving Castellini a pass. This is the 13th season he has been principal owner. Castellini and the Williams brothers have exhausted the good will their 2006 epistle on winning when they proclaimed they know to run a successful MLB team.

    Reply

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

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