Yesterday the Cincinnati Reds came to agreement on 1-year contracts for 2020 with five players. Pitchers Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani, Michael Lorenzen, and Matt Bowman, along with catcher Curt Casali all avoided heading to arbitration with the Reds by inking 1-year deals.

Arbitration is something that everyone likes to avoid. When the player and teams can’t come to an agreement on a deal, both sides put in what they believe the contract should be worth for the upcoming season. One of those two contracts will win – there’s no in-between number, it’s an either/or situation. Both sides have to go in front of the arbiter and present their case as to why their number is correct, and at times it leaves bad feelings with the players as their team basically tells them why they aren’t as good as they believe that they are.

MLB Trade Rumors has a system in place that projects what players would wind up getting in arbitration, and it’s been pretty accurate over the years. Nothing is going to be perfect, but it’s been very reliable. For the five players that the team signed to 2020 contracts yesterday, they had projected the total in arbitration to be $30,600,000. The Reds signed the five players to a total of $29,528,000.

While the outcome from arbitration wasn’t likely going to change the payroll much – both sides tend to have a generally good understanding of the range they are likely to win, with five players, it’s possible that it could have made a $3-5,000,000 difference based on the best/worst case scenario of outcomes for one side or the other between all of the parties involved.

Here’s an updated look at the 2020 Payroll for the Cincinnati Reds.

Player 2020 Salary
Joey Votto $25,000,000
Trevor Bauer $17,500,000
Mike Moustakas $12,000,000
Sonny Gray $10,166,666
Eugenio Suarez $9,535,714
Raisel Iglesias $9,000,000
Shogo Akiyama $6,000,000
Wade Miley $6,000,000
Anthony DeSclafani $5,975,000
Freddy Galvis $5,500,000
Tucker Barnhart $3,937,500
Michael Lorenzen $3,725,500
Curt Casali $1,462,500
Travis Jankowski $1,050,000
Matt Bowman $865,000
Pre-Arb Players $6,198,500
All Total $123,916,380

We can round that up and just call it $124,000,000 to make it nice and easy. The Reds front office has spoken about having a record high payroll in 2020. And it certainly seems that they were trying to get there, too. They came up short in the running for both Yasmani Grandal and Zack Wheeler – both of whom who would have pushed the organization to a new high.

But as things sit right now, it’s tough to see where any free agents remaining would lead the Reds to a new high in payroll. While they have been linked outfielders Marcell Ozuna and Nicholas Castellanos, the latest rumors seem to have them out of the running for now on both.

That isn’t to say that the Reds are done. The price for either of those players could change and Cincinnati could re-engage. And there’s always the trade market, too. Earlier this week it was noted that throughout the offseason the Reds had been showing interest in Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. They’ve also been linked to Francisco Lindor in trade talks all offseason as well.

It will be interesting to see what moves are left for the Reds this offseason. As things sit right now, the team – at least on paper – projects near the top of the division. But the division is very close. And when it comes to situations like that, every small improvement made can be an actual difference maker. That marginal win matters a lot more at the top than it does when you’re looking at a 78-win team where getting to 79 wins doesn’t change anything but maybe your draft position. There’s money remaining in the budget. But finding the right spot to spend it could be a little bit challenging, too, given the current make up of the team and what’s available.

54 Responses

  1. AirborneJayJay

    That $124MM figure would leave them about $11MM to go on a $135MM budget. I think that is their ceiling on the budget, at least until July. That can bring in one solid reliever and leave about $7MM left for the trade deadline. That $7MM for two months equates to a full season salary of $21MM. That would be a high quality addition in July.
    However, that makes the search for a SS upgrade moot until July. Then again it fits quite well for a Seager making $7MM for the year.

    • Tv

      He said nice increase. Even if you just take the 116 form the record for 2014 or 15 and add the 25 in tv money you get to 140

    • Charles Lackey

      REDS FRONT OFFICE*FRONT OFFICE*. Reds still need a big bat and a top starting pitcher or bullpen help–upgrade in the catching area would really help. All I see now Reds are sitting and TALK the Talk, but no action in attempting to obtain these players. Other teams are signing, trading etc…which makes them at least a contender. Reds still, as in the past, seem to settle to be a lower ranked team in the standings. Puig is still available and can still hit, hit with power, has power and with one of the best arms in MLB his defense is still great. Lindor is a great player but I wouldn’t trade your best player/s to land him. Senzels name has been mentioned a lot to, plus a couple of prospects to get him. But if Senzel improves as predicted he may be as valuable as Lindor. Nick has only had a years worth of major League games. I’ll finish up by saying
      Reds should bring up Tyler Stephenson NOW. As a fan only, he seems ready PLUS, Barnhart would appeal to several teams and Reds would still have Casali. Just a thought.

      • Amarillo

        We’ve given out the 8th most in free agent dollars so far this year. More than the Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers, and Astros combined. I wouldn’t call that no action.

  2. TomT

    Hmmmm, 124 mil. Currently, FO has announced they will up payroll to all time high, 140 mil seems to be the current benchmark, that leaves 16 mil left, oh look Lindor is at what 17.something? Seems like a marriage made in MLB!

    • JayTheRed

      As I have said perhaps the bullpen help comes in the trade from the Indians. They have to have a reliever that is pretty good. I still think the magic number might go as high as 145 to 150 million especially if we get one of these great shortstops.

  3. Bill J

    Looks like the Cards are prepared to sign Ozuna and possibly making a big trade. Interesting article on MLB best prospects in different categories and most overrated and underrated prospects, only one Red and one former Red mentioned. Hunter Greene as best closer and Greene and Taylor Trammell as most overrated.

  4. Hotto4Votto

    I disagree it’s challenging to find a spot to spend money. It’s obvious, it’s at SS. Got to find a SS through trade at this point. Now it’s up to the Reds FO to live up to the expectations they’ve set with payroll.

    • Doug Gray

      You can’t just force a team to trade you someone, though. And really, the team needs what? Maybe a reliever, and maybe a shortstop? They’d likely need to sign multiple relievers to bust through to a new payroll high. There’s not a shortstop on the free agent market that’s going to put them over the old payroll high.

      So I’ll disagree that it won’t be at least some sort of challenge to get there. It’s almost assuredly going to require them to find a trade for a guy making decent money, at a position like shortstop – and given what we know about that market, that won’t be easy to get accomplished.

      • Hotto4Votto

        Sure, it takes two to tango. Can’t force a trade. I didn’t disagree on that. I disagreed that it’s going to be challenging to find the right spot. The right spot to spend the money is evident. That spot, as you just stated above, is going to be SS (and very likely a reliever or two).
        But the FO gets paid to do just that, figure out ways to improve the team. They’ll have to do it through a trade. But again, that’s there job to get that done. The FO is the one who set up the expectation that the payroll is going to go (well) beyond what’s it’s been in the past. I think it’s fair as fans to hold them to the benchmarks they set.

      • Tom

        I think the Reds need two high quality relievers and then some minor league deals that might turn into flyers.

        I also hope the Reds are talking to the Rays for a SS option. The Rays have a lot of Shortstop prospects. Maybe we can package a deal for 5 seasons of Willy Adames. Fingers crossed.

      • Satchmo

        Seems like many Reds fans hold to contradictory ideas that they don’t seem to understand are contradictory.

        First, the keyboard warrior says:

        1) “All the Reds do is talk, talk, talk. Trade for Lindor!!!! Trade for Seager!!! Why are you standing pat?!?!?!?!”

        Then, in the next breath, he says:

        2) “Man, the Reds get ripped off ALL THE TIME in these trades. They’re such bozos. L.A. and Cleveland fleeced them last year. Clowns.”

        I wonder, does it ever occurs to this guy that the reason the Reds are patiently waiting this out is because they don’t want to get fleeced?

        I imagine that both the Tribe and the Dodgers are trying to leverage half a dozen teams into overpaying for players with 2 year contracts. If you go in to that type of negotiation desperate you are guy that is going to get fleeced. If Dick Williams is smart, which I assume he is, he has to make it perfectly clear that he’s willing to go with Galvis.

      • Hotto4Votto

        I can’t tell if you’re speaking in general or directly to me, and I say a lot of things, but I’ve never said the two statements you just attributed to “keyboard warriors “. So if you’re directing that to me you can get outta here with that nonsense. If not, and more generally, then maybe make a separate post and not reply directly to a post that doesn’t really address your point.
        I’ve been positive about the moves they’ve made so far, and vocal about wishing they do more. So have many other posters. I applauded what they did last offseason to get the pitching and expressed they use that same fervor and creativeness to get the hitting this year. I was even ok with the ill- fated Dodger trade after the fact because it made good baseball sense even if it didn’t work out. I am fine with the job the FO is doing. I just don’t think the job is finished. Is it wrong as a fan to expect the FO to fulfill the expectations they set coming into the offseason?

  5. Hotto4Votto

    Also, that salary could be a little less depending on whether or not Jankowski makes the team out of ST. If he’s cut, depending on how early in the spring, the Reds would only be on the hook for 30-45 days of a prorated rate.

  6. Sliotar

    This winter should have solidified for the Reds ownership and front office that it cannot spend its way via free agency to prosperity.

    Announced before FA season started that it had a record payroll to spend … and landed Moustakas and Akiyama. And, probably, IMO, had to give an additional year to land each of them. (Maybe 2 extra years in the case of Moustakas).


    For any number of reasons, key free agents aren’t coming to Cincinnati…especially starting pitching.

    The winter is not over … but, the idea of a Moustakas-Galvis double play combination winning the World Series is something I will actually have to see to believe.

    • Doug Gray

      Assuming you’re an adult, you’ve seen a whole lot of teams with no real belief in them heading into the playoffs win the World Series. The St. Louis freaking Cardinals used their devil magic to win a World Series one year despite winning 83 whole regular season games.

      • Sliotar

        “Assuming you’re an adult” …. Why the need to insult people?

        I am a business owner as well, have been for more than 10 years… and I would not dream of addressing someone like you started your reply … even if they weren’t a customer of mine.

        And, no matter how much I might disagree with them.

      • Justin

        I took it to mean “assuming you’re old enough”.

      • David

        Same. Nothing wrong with Doug’s comment.

      • Doug Gray

        Sliotar, I was referencing your age being over 18 – in which case you should have no problem at all recalling teams that made the playoffs that no one gave a real chance to winning going on and actually winning.

    • Greenfield Red

      “This winter should have solidified for the Reds ownership and front office that it cannot spend its way via free agency to prosperity.”

      I mean no disrespect Sliotar, but what on planet have you been living? The Reds haven’t made a significant free agent signing in decades before this year when they made one headline (Moose) signing and two signings that are significant (Akiyama and Miley). I think the Reds ownership is pretty clear where it stands in the world of free agent signings, but I applaud its effort this year and hope it continues in coming years.

      I can’t think of a highly successful organization that relies only on the draft and trades to be consistently competitive. They have to work in the free agent market, and it looks like they finally are willing to do so.

      And, one final note, 1/2 of that double play combination has played a major role on a World Series winner, so let’s give them a chance.

      • Hotto4Votto

        To be fair, when Moustakas played in a world series he was a 3B and he had just turned 27 in September that year and was entering his prime.

      • Sliotar

        I am all for “giving them a chance” … I bought a 20-game weekend package in the hopes my niece and nephew will see their first Reds home playoff game.

        But … it is what it is. The 2 biggest holes on the team… C and SS haven’t been upgraded and aren’t likely to be via free agency.

        I used to fear Peraza and Scooter trying to make key stops defensively in a potential playoff game … Galvis and Moustakas (not his natural position) are older, and make me even more fearful.

        To each their own.

      • Old-school

        @ Sliotar- you have consistently maintained the importance of young talent and not getting old.
        The reds have balanced that this off-season. Yes- they got moustakis and Shogo but they also avoided trading prospects. Let’s see what Aquino Senzel and Winker do as well as Stephenson at C in AAA.

      • Tom

        The Reds lost out on two former Reds prospects they traded who happened to be FAs this year. There’s a decent chance that neither of them wanted to come to the team that traded them away. The other position players free agents available aren’t the slam dunks for upgrades. Hopefully we can land 1-2 top strong relievers.

    • JayTheRed

      Just had a thought. Maybe some of this years budget money would go to signing new multiyear deals with some of our current players??
      I am sure that some team would be willing to trade us an upgrade at SS or perhaps a catcher still if we offered a nice package of players. The problem is it would probably be an overpay on our part. I know MLBTradeRumors has a list of relief pitchers out there that have not signed but I’m not too familiar with the relief pitcher market. Maybe we can aquire a decent reliever in trade.

  7. Old-school

    Take that money and sign Luis Castillo to an extension and take on salary at the trade deadline if the Reds are winning.

    • Big Ed

      Yes. And consider extending DeSclafani, who was excellent the last 4 months of the season. And Senzel.

  8. Tom Mitsoff

    The off-season moves have clearly been positives — improving second base, the outfield and starting pitching without surrendering any assets. There is plenty of time before the season starts, but right now, it feels like #getthehitting fell a bit short — at least short of #getthepitching, which resulted in Sonny Gray, Trevor Bauer and Tanner Roark.

    For #getthehitting to be as successful as #getthepitching, at least one more impact bat needs to be added via trade or signing.

    • Hotto4Votto

      This is pretty much where I’m at. I’ve been a fan of the moves they have made, but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied with where the team is at now. Forward progress is great, but I’m not sure we’ve done enough at this point to get over the hump. I agree that it would feel like #getthehitting has fallen short of expectations by stopping now. One more impact bat at a position of need. Going into the offseason the Reds had two positions clearly a cut above the others that needed upgrading. Neither has been addressed. I think it’s fair to expect the club to address at least one of those needs this offseason, especially considering they have the payroll space to keep adding.

    • RedNat

      I agree Tom. we missed our two top targets with Grandal and Didi early and I think that will likely cost us the division. like you said we probably won’t be able to get quite enough offense this year.

      I also agree with Sliotar above. it is worth exploring why we were unable to land these 2 players.. why did we lose out to Chicago and Philly? Is it market size? did we not offer enough money? is it our bad reputation as a sports city? Could it be coaching? Derek Johnson seems to be a magnet for good pitchers. Is Bell the right guy to attract position players. ? Would Didi be here if say Barry Larkin was the coach?

      • Big Ed

        My understanding is that the Reds’ offer to Didi was the same or better than that of the Phillies, but that Didi signed with Philly because he had a great relationship with new manager Joe Girardi, who had managed him in New York.

      • Tom

        Or, maybe, neither Didi or Grandal wanted to sign with the team that traded them away as prospects. Frankly, I didn’t think Didi was worth it. Grandal, on the other hand, would have been a nice upgrade.

        I think our best options at this is point are to sign 1-3 of the best available relievers and continue exporing trade options for SS.

    • Indydoug

      Remember that Bauer came over in mid season

      • Hotto4Votto

        That’s true. Tom also omitted that the Reds brought in Alex Woods. Not counting the mid-season acquisition of Bauer, the Reds brought in 3 established, quality, starting pitchers. Injuries made it so that it didn’t work out for Woods and the Reds, but the larger point is that the Reds set a goal to improve the pitching and went out and brought in 3 new starters (and then Bauer at the deadline). The improvement on get the hitting has not gone as well. Moustakas is a nice addition to give another above average bat to the line up. Hopefully Akiyama will be too, though even the Reds official talk is some sort of platoon at this point. Some projections are positive some are not as much. We won’t know how Akiyama will transition to MLB at this point, which is different than bringing in an established ML player.

      • Tom Mitsoff

        Good point on my omission of Wood. That makes the #getthepitching even more impressive.

  9. Amarillo

    If there isn’t an upgrade out there to be had in the trade market for a price they are comfortable with, they could consider taking on a bad contract to purchase a prospect like what the Giants/Angels did with Cozart.

    • Optimist

      Yep – Wonder if they believe Didi is not that much of an improvement over Galvis? Thus, all the rumors of a bigger upgrade – Lindor, Seager, even the hints about Semian/Bogaerts/Adames and so on. All more lucrative than Didi. Sounds like they targeted Grandel/Moose/Akiyama and got 2 of 3.

      And, still think they’re set for another Dodger trade to take on salary/contracts along with Seager.

      So far, so good, and if this is the 40-man into June, fine – upgrade at the trade deadline. Just avoid the swoons at the start of each 1/2 season, and they are in contention and buyers.

      • Amarillo

        I have a hunch the asking price for Lindor was closer to Castillo + Senzel than Senzel + someone else. I saw on a Dodgers fansite them discussing whether they would do Seager for Senzel + Castillo with some people saying no. It’s really quite possible that trading for one of those guys at the actual price would have made the team a lot worse. I think if our Front Office thinks trading for Lindor would have made the team better it would be done already.

      • JayTheRed

        July 4th 2019. Reds were still in 5th place but were only 3.5 games out of first place. I believe they were only 5 out of 1st place right before the All Star game.

        Problem was is the team decided to take a snooze after the All Star game. Bullpen showed signs of being tired out with several poor outings in the 2nd part of July and the Hitting completely died for about a half month as well.

        I believe there are some more transactions to come I wish it was a big trade but I am starting to have my doubts now of that happening. There is time though. Catcher and Shortstop seem to be the biggest need. Sure would like to see at least one fairly good reliever come to the Reds too just not sure on names that would be a quality reliever either free agent or trade that would be out there.

  10. Pete P

    Why is there no noise about Bogearts. Red Sox are on the hook for 20mm with him and they’re trying to get under tax. Why not trade him to accomplish this?

    • Rich H.

      Well, I’d have to assume Galvis would be a part of that trade, leaving their post-trade middle infield starters as… Freddy Galvis and Jose Peraza lol. Not sure the Sox are gonna go for that after last year’s showcase for those two. Who knows, maybe.

    • Big Ed

      I think the Reds are very high on Jose Garcia, and that he will be starting in Cincinnati in 2022. Signing Bogaerts, whom I like a lot, would block a $600,000 player with a $20 million player.

      Garcia is the player whom I most look forward to seeing in spring training. I think that Garcia has the potential to arrive ahead of schedule, but like any prospect could stall.

      • Hotto4Votto

        I like Garcia a lot. But, personally, I’d pump the breaks a bit on his ETA. He hasn’t played an inning at AA yet, and there’s been too many prospects unable to make the jump to AA and end up stalling out. It’s said to be the toughest jump in competition level in the minors. So, while I hope and expect good things from him, I’ve also followed the minor leagues long enough to know that the next step in his progression will be a difficult one. I tend to want to see prospects experience success at AA before I start penciling them into future lineups.

  11. MBS

    Arodys Vizcaino would be a buy low guy with huge upside. He missed all but 4 games in 19. He had his labrum cleared out of scar tissue. Also go after Alex Wood for the bullpen. That could be 2 quality arms added for probably like 12 or 13 m.

    • Bill J

      Sorry, Wood signed with the Dodgers.

      • MBS

        Looks like they signed him to a team friendly contract. It also looks like they have a few too many starters. I’m guessing he’s headed to their pen.

  12. Ed

    I really hope more bullpen and offensive depth is imminent. If the Cards grab Arenado, the division should likely be theirs for the taking. Especially if they bring Ozuna back as well. I think the Cards would have Goldschmidt and Arenado locked in until 2025? That’s gonna be a grueling stretch for the Reds.

  13. Michael E

    I know the article was about hard time reaching “record high payroll”, but so many bashing this off-season? Seriously? This is the best off-season we’ve had in many years. If they make a trade for a better SS (Galvis is NOT a bad SS, at worst he’s basically average/replacement level) or C or RP upgrade, it will be a GREAT off-season. Even if they don’t this has been a VERY good off-season for this Reds franchise.

    As others have said, maybe you hold that extra money and extend a player or two (similar to Suarez deal a couple of years ago) . I’d have no problem with that. If you extend Senzel buying out one year of FA and he has a good/solid year, he will be a top commodity (Suarez still is based on that contract), and could be a very center piece of a trade deadline deal without having to give up much else (less prospect or one other surplus OF.

    I am a Reds fan and I know bad off-seasons (we all do, over and over and over again), and this has been the most successful since we brought in Choo or Rolen. Sure, getting Suarez and Castillo were shrewd deals in off-season, but they didn’t appear to be world-beating, season-contending gets at the time, just low risk, solid upside gets.

    We upgrade 2B and CF and SP5 and some are bemoaning we didn’t hit a record-high payroll? I say it was even better than the FO could improve the team and NOT be forced to severely overpay to do it. Good for them. I am not sold Didi will be great, so not that worried about missing him. Grandal would have been nice, but man, that’s ALOT of money considering the Reds don’t have a DH and catchers rarely catch more than 120 games now.

    • Ed

      That’s not so much my complaint- and I don’t want to be negative for the sake of being negative! I think our moves really put us up on the Brewers and maybe the Cubs too. But if the Cardinals make a truly big move, resigning Ozuna and adding someone like Arenado? Their offense was below league average last year, but they took the division. They could potentially move the needle in a big way.

      Remember that we’re improving on a post-trade deadline Reds that tanked, and hard. There are lots of reasons for that- people point to the bullpen, but those “one run losses” blown by the ‘pen were all pre-July which shows the offense went to sleep after the break. After the deadline, we were simply shellacked and out-classed across the division. We saw the young kids universally struggle, aside from Aquino. Gausman, Wood, and Bauer combined for something like 10 very bad losses. We saw Castillo regress in the second half, while Gray dominated and Disco seemed to settle on. We were in contention until the break. We needed to move the needle in a big way to lock things down, but we may not have moved it enough to take the division.

      • Bill J

        Not being negative, all the moves being made by any team mean very little until the end of the season then we will know what moved mattered.

  14. Jerad Malmberg

    FO has done a great job and they have improved the team in an efficient and economic way. As fans we do not need to get upset if they do not break the record payroll this year, It’s not wise just to spend money cuz they said they would spend a certain amount, the only reasonable upgrade they can throw money at is relief pitchers but most top relievers are taken. I’d rather they take the money they thought they were going to spend and set it aside for next years free agency instead of spending money for the sake of spending.