Why Don’t the Reds Dip More Into Free Agency?


It’s a question that gets asked every year around this time. With free agency now in full bloom, many wonder why Cincy doesn’t pursue more free agents. The answer is simpler than you’d think…and it has nothing to do with having a conservative owner.

The answer lies in the numbers. The numbers of the market in which the Reds consider home, Cincinnati. This is not an indictment on the great city of Cincinnati. It is not an indictment on the fans. It’s purely, again, a numbers game.

According to Nielsen, Cincinnati ranks next to last in market size among the 29 cities in the United States that house a major league baseball team. The only team below Cincinnati is Milwaukee. Looking at only NL Central teams, these numbers breakdown as follows:

1. Chicago (3rd overall)
2. Houston (10th overall)
3. St. Louis (21st overall)
4. Pittsburgh (23rd overall)
5. Cincinnati (33rd overall)
6. Milwaukee (35th overall)

In fact, the NL Central “owns” four of the seven smallest markets in all of baseball.

Say all you want about revenue sharing and the huge number of dollars that are divided among the 30 teams. Say all you want about the team records “acquired” by and released by Deadspin. Teams make money through the obvious channels of ticket and concession sales, and merchandising in addition to revenue sharing. Tickets and concessions are huge while merchandising, for most teams, isn’t that large.

But baseball teams also make money based on their television and radio contracts dollars and those advertisers that run ads during those broadcasts. Some teams can make large chunks of dough this way…if they are in a larger city. Teams can charge so much money for broadcast rights and advertising. When your team resides in a “smaller market”, broadcast providers that may carry broadcasts look at these “rankings” as to what they may be willing to pay to carry the games. Advertisers look at these numbers to “see” what their reach would be if they advertised during the broadcasts. As makes complete sense, the larger the market, the more exposure an advertiser receives, the higher the ad rate, the more a team charges for those rights to broadcast.

With Cincy being considered a smaller market, they do not receive as much of a boost in the “extra” money as the larger market teams do. That all adds up to not having the dough to spend on the big time free agents despite receiving money from the “central fund”. It almost forces you to pursue a conservative approach on any business decision including free agents.

Of course, an argument could be made that the Reds did go after Aroldis Chapman last off-season. That’s is still somewhat of a rarity for the Reds to pursue such a high profile player. And they did shell out a bit of coin for his services.

The Reds do have a number of “items” to address. Namely, a possible long-term deal with Joey Votto, the arbitration of numerous players, a hefty raise for Brandon Phillips. A very hefty raise.

Yes, the Reds will continue to avoid the high price guys (Lee, Crawford, Beltre and Crawford). They could use Carl Crawford, no question about it, but Walt Jocketty and the rest of the Reds brass will choose to pursue the “others”.

Unless Bob Castellini has wads of cash coming out his butt. I haven’t found an image of that and I hope I never see one.