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Know Your Enemy – Cincinnati Reds


This is the fifth in a series of 5 articles that will try to get Pirate fans inside the organizations of the Pirates’ NL Central opponents.  I explained the rationale behind these articles here and previously reviewed the Houston Astros, Chicago Cubs Milwaukee Brewers, and the Saint Louis Cardinals.

This final article will look at the rising power in Pittsburgh’s sister city, the Cincinnati Reds.  I expect the battle that is going on between the Reds and the Cards this season to continue for the next few years.  Cincinnati is a scary team in terms of talent and the low salaries that talent will be making.  This will enable them to add whatever they may need in free agency.

Payroll Committments 2011-2014 (does not include arbitration or min-scale players)

2011 — $42.733 million

2012 — $16.275 million

2013 — $4.708 million

2014 — $5.708 million

After 2011, the Reds have virtually no committed salary because most of their key guys are still on minimum scale or entering arbitration.  Either way, their salaries are well below market rate for the foreseeable future.

Estimated Payroll 2011 (includes arb and min-scale estimates)

All players with asterisks (*) next to their names have estimated salaries.  If a player is a first year guy, $400K, two years $425K, three years $450K.  For a 3 year arbitration player, arb-1 is 40% of their market value, arb-2 is 60% of market value, and arb-3 is 80% of market value.  Again, these are only my estimates.

C — Ramon Hernandez ($3.25M vest option won’t be met, but they could negotiate this)

1B — Joey Votto $5M (*)

2B — Brandon Phillips $11.188M

SS — Orlando Cabrera $4M (mutual option)

3B — Scott Rolen $8.167M

LF — Jonny Gomes $1.75M (club option)

CF — Drew Stubbs $425K (*)

RF — Jay Bruce $450K (*)

SP1 — Johnny Cueto $2.3M (*)

SP2 — Edinson Volquez $1.8M (*)

SP3 — Homer Bailey $450K (*)

SP4 — Mike Leake $425K (*)

SP5 — Travis Wood $400K (*)

Bench — Chris Heisey ($425K *), Ryan Hanigan ($450K *), Paul Janish ($450K *), Miguel Cairo ($750K *), Todd Frazier ($400K *)

Bullpen — Francisco Cordero ($12.125M), Aroldis Chapman ($3.708M), Nick Masset ($1.545M), Arthur Rhodes ($2M *), Logan Ondrusek ($425K *), Danny Ray Herrera ($450K *), Jordan Smith ($400K *)

The Reds do not need to pick up the options on Harang and Arroyo, so the buyouts will be $2M each for them.  What a luxury to not need the dependability of Arroyo to eat innings.  The Reds potential starting five rotation will cost around $5.5M for all of them.  That is absolutely ridiculous to have that good of a rotation for that cheap.  And notice that Aroldis Chapman is slyly sitting in the bullpen as the setup man in 2011.  He could step in if someone in the rotation is out for an extended period of time, but perhaps for 2011 his role would be best served in the bullpen.

Counting in the Harang/Arroyo buyouts, the team payroll as shown above is $66.733M.

Historical Payrolls 2005-2010

2005 — $61.9M (73 W – 89 L)

2006 — $60.9M (80 W – 82 L)

2007 — $68.9M (72 W – 90 L)

2008 — $74.1M (74 W – 88 L)

2009 — $73.6M (78 W – 84 L)

2010 — $76.1M (77 W – 55 L, as of 9/1/10)

In recent years, the Reds salary ceiling seems to be the mid 70’s, so they could theoretically add $8M above the salaries in the Estimated Payroll 2011 section.  Keep in mind that the albatross of Cordero’s $12M comes off the books after 2011, too, freeing up even more money.

Bad Contracts

Did someone mention Francisco Cordero?  One of my cardinal rules is you never overpay for a closer.  Relievers are so volatile in general and closers are only used for 60 innings on average.  There is no reason the Reds should have given Cordero a contract for $12.125M, but it is over after 2011 with a $1M buyout for 2012.

Potential Help From the Minor League System

Not only do the Reds have a relatively inexpensive Major League roster, but they have plenty of cost-controlled pieces coming up behind them, too.

After going through the rosters of the 4 full-season teams of the Reds, here are the guys who can be starters, not bullpen/bench guys, and the estimated time of arrivals:

  • Devin Mesoraco C (A+/AA/AAA in 2010), estimated time of arrival 2011-2012
  • Yonder Alonso 1B (AA/AAA), 2011
  • Matt Maloney RHP (AAA), 2011
  • Aroldis Chapman LHP (AAA), 2011
  • Neftali Soto 1B (A+), 2013
  • Pedro Villareal RHP (A/A+), 2013
  • Cody Puckett 2B (A+), 2013
  • Didi Gregorius SS (A), 2014

I have said in the previous articles that no bullpen guys would be spotlighted, but Aroldis Chapman is not a typical bullpen guy.  He is a lefty that can bring it at 98-100 mph.  If his control doesn’t improve as a starter, the Reds could make him their closer as soon as 2012 when Cordero is gone.  Ultimately, the Reds want to try him as a starter.

Perhaps no prospect has had a revival to his career during 2010 as great as Devin Mesoraco.  You really can’t even chalk this up to “catchers take longer to develop” because of how drastic of an improvement his year has been.  After hitting 8 HR’s with a 692 OPS in 2009, Mesoraco has hit 25 HR’s with a 1010 OPS in 2010 and may very well be the best catching prospect remaining in the minors.  At the start of the year, he was repeating the level and being whispered as a bust.   Now, he could be the Reds starting catcher at the mid point of 2011.

One other player to note is Yasmani Grandal, the Reds first round pick in 2010.  He is not on a full season roster, but received a ML contract and could be the Reds starting catcher in 2013.

What Should They Do? — One of my favorite sayings is “Flags Fly Forever.”  It basically means that when you have a chance to win a championship, you have to expend any resource (whether it is money or a trade chip) to make that championship happen.  Right now, the Reds most useful trade chip may be Yonder Alonso, as I have concerns that his trouble against lefties may make him a platoon player and has only average power for a 1B.  With Joey Votto locking 1B down, the Reds can afford to use Alonso in a trade to bolster a weakness.

To date, both Jay Bruce and Drew Stubbs have been disappointing and if an upgrade is available it should be taken.  Perhaps the Reds could trade Alonso to their in-state rivals, the Cleveland Indians (along with another player or two) for Shin-Soo Choo.

Why it is good for the Indians — The Indians are nowhere close to contending and Choo is a valuable trade asset.  He will be 28 in 2011 and will not be around by the time the Indians are good again.  Alonso could be their opening day 1B and replace the underwhelming Matt Laporta.

Why it is good for the Reds — The Reds get a proven slugger with a cannon of a RF arm, just entering the prime of his career.  He will be arb-1 in 2011, so he may cost $3.5 to $4M, but as shown above the Reds have some wiggle room with their payroll.  Choo can provide Votto protection in the order.  Bruce can move to LF and relegate Gomes to a 4th OF role that he is more suited for.

They should non-tender: Jared Burton, Laynce Nix, and Bill Bray.  All are fungible assets that no longer are needed for this team.

They should not pick up the options or re-sign: Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang, Mike Lincoln, and Jim Edmonds.  I’ve already discussed Arroyo and Harang not being necessary, especially at their salaries.

What Will They Do? — GM’s and managers alike love guys that eat innings like Arroyo.  It really saves a bullpen.  I fear that the Reds will want a “veteran presence” for the young pitchers and pick up his $13M option.  That may hamstring them to try and improve the offense, especially the OF, unless ownership is willing to go into the mid to high $80M range for salary.

Trending Up, Trending Down, or In Flux? — The future is very bright for the Reds and they are the only NL Central opponent that I feel comfortable saying is trending up.  The window for the Reds is open for the next 3 years, which is the timeframe that most of their key guys will be going through arbitration.  It will be difficult to keep all of Bruce, Cueto, Volquez, and Votto together once they are all eligible for free agency.

For all mid-sized payroll teams, if that opportunity is in front of you, you must take it at all costs.  The period to rebuild can be painful and long.

I hope you enjoyed this series as much as I enjoyed researching and writing these articles.

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