Cincinnati Reds: What does a $130 million payroll look like?

BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox delivers the pitch during the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park on October 24, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - OCTOBER 24: Nathan Eovaldi #17 of the Boston Red Sox delivers the pitch during the eighth inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game Two of the 2018 World Series at Fenway Park on October 24, 2018 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Throughout the offseason several reports have claimed the Cincinnati Reds front office is willing to increase payroll to a franchise record level.  But what kind of team does $130 million buy?

Next week at the Winter Meetings in Las Vegas the Cincinnati Reds front office is poised to gamble that more money equals more victories.  While the idea of increasing payroll hits the jackpot with fans will it actually deliver a significantly better team in an ultra competitive National League Central.

Currently, the Reds have $68.8 million in guaranteed salaries for next season and that’s just for seven players.  Those players include Eugenio Suárez, Raisel Iglesias, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez and Tucker Barnhart.  Of course, Joey Votto and Homer Bailey alone make up $48 million of those dedicated dollars.

The Cincinnati Reds will also need to come to terms with players who are eligible for arbitration.  The players who will be receiving raises are Scooter Gennett, José Peraza, Anthony DeScalfani, Michael Lorenzen and Curt Casali.

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According to projections at MLB Trade Rumors the club can be expected to dole out another $19.6 in salaries among this group.  Gennett will be the biggest beneficiary who can expect a payday approaching the  $11 million mark.

Taking those numbers into account the Reds have approximately $88.4 million in payroll committed to twelve players.  Luckily, they have over half of the 25-man roster under club control salary wise.  With that in mind, a fair estimate is $10-12 million to cover the remaining players on the roster.

Theoretically speaking President of Baseball Operations Dick Williams and General Manager Nick Krall will hit Vegas with nearly $30 million to spend.   Williams during a recent appearance on the Reds Hot Stove League Show stated the club would like to add two pitchers to the roster this winter.

Top of the rotation starters such as Patrick Corbin and Dallas Keuchel will most likely command salaries of at least $20 MM annually.  Let’s say the Reds give Keuchel $20 million and another $10 for Matt Harvey.  The payroll will have hit the $130 million threshold without addressing the bullpen or the outfield situation following the decision to non-tender Billy Hamilton.

While adding hurlers such as Keuchel and Harvey will obviously make the Reds rotation better it will leave other positions neglected.  Currently, the Reds only have Scott Schebler, Jesse Winker and Phillip Ervin on the 40-man roster who have significant outfield experience at the big league level.  Even with prospect Nick Senzel awaiting his opportunity, the club will need to add another outfielder.

How about a player intimately familiar with the division like former Cardinal and Cub outfielder Jon Jay.  Last spring, Jay signed a one-year $3 million deal with the Royals before being dealt to the Diamondbacks in June.  If he’s willing to take a similar deal this offseason the Cincinnati Reds should make this happen.  Jay has experience in centerfield and could be the perfect stopgap solution until prospect Taylor Trammell is ready.

Signing a player like Jay to a modest deal still allows plenty of opportunity to address the pitching staff.  Perhaps a cheaper and younger alternative to Keuchel in the form of Nathan Eovaldi is the answer.  The Red Sox’ World Series hero is projected to receive in the vicinity of $15 million annually in free agency.

In this scenario, it would leave the Reds with approximately $12 million to pursue additional reinforcements.  A reunion of southpaw Wade Miley and new Reds pitching coach Derek Johnson is an intriguing option.

Miley had an excellent bounce back season in 2018 under Johnson’s tutelage in Milwaukee.  Recent projections having Miley garnering a free agent deal in the neighborhood of $6 million annually.  A price tag the Reds could easily afford.

With $6 MM left in their pockets Williams and Krall could look to add another left hander to the bullpen to compliment Amir Garrett.  An appealing option could be former Tampa Bay Ray Vidal Nuno.  Last year, the 30-year-old posted a 1.64 ERA to go along with a 1.03 WHIP and a ridiculous 256 ERA+.

Which non-tendered players should the Reds target. Next

Increasing payroll does not guarantee success, but it does provide the Cincinnati Reds front office with options they haven’t utilized in recent years. Williams and Krall will face staunch competition during their time in the desert.  However, while it’s easy to spend other people’s money, you don’t have to look too hard to find ways for the front office to significantly upgrade the roster in the very near future.  .