Cincinnati Reds: What’s the offseason budget look like?

CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 22: Owner and CEO Bob Castellini speaks as general manager Nick Krall looks on after David Bell was introduced as the new manager for the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on October 22, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
CINCINNATI, OH - OCTOBER 22: Owner and CEO Bob Castellini speaks as general manager Nick Krall looks on after David Bell was introduced as the new manager for the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on October 22, 2018 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

The Reds budget may restrict them from re-signing Trevor Bauer.

The Cincinnati Reds spent big last winter. Don’t expect that again this offseason. After doling out $165M in contracts to Wade Miley, Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, Shogo Akiyama and Pedro Strop, fans should expect the Reds ownership and front office to be a more frugal this offseason. So, what does the budget look like heading into this winter?

Obviously the biggest contract on the books for next season belongs to Joey Votto. Every year fans bemoan the fact that Votto’s contract does not match his production. While that’s true, it is what it is and the Reds are stuck with it. Cincinnati owes Votto $82M over the next three seasons and no team in their right mind is going to trade for an aging superstar with that type of contract.  Next!

In addition to Votto’s guaranteed $25M contract for next season, the Reds also have infielders Mike Moustakas ($14M) and Eugenio Suárez ($10.79M) under contract. Those three infield spots account for $49.79M over guaranteed contracts in 2021. Tucker Barnhart is also signed for $4.2M next season.

Looking at the starting rotation, the aforementioned Wade Miley will take home $8M in 2021. The only other starter under contract is Sonny Gray. Gray signed an extension after he was traded to Cincinnati and will earn a little over $10M next season.

The only other player with a contract heading into the offseason is reliever Raisel Iglesias. Iglesias signed a three-year/$24.125M contract prior to the 2019 season and will receive $9.125M next season according to Spotrac. Shogo Akiyama is also under contract for $7M next season. Calculating all that up, the Reds will be on the hook for approximately $88M heading into this winter.

Now, there’s the matter of Nick Castellanos’ contract as well. Castellanos signed a four-year/$64M contract last January, but he has the opportunity to opt out of that contract this offseason and following the 2021 season. Given the state of baseball, having received no gate revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic, I expect Castellanos to pick up his $14M option.

So, with the Reds budget approaching $102M heading into the offseason, there should be more than enough money available to re-sign Trevor Bauer, right? I mean, c’mon, last year the Reds was about $135M; the highest it’s ever been. So, projecting that Bauer can probably look for a contract in the neighborhood of $35M/ year, Cincinnati could make that work, right? Not exactly.

We’ve got to include all those players who are eligible for arbitration and those who are pre-arbitration eligible as well. That list includes the likes of first-year arbitration eligible players like Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle and Jesse Winker; all of whom will get a substantial pay raise.

MLB Trade Rumors is kind enough every offseason to provide fans with a projection of what each arbitration eligible player can expect to make. This year’s numbers are a little different because of the 60-game season, but it should give us a rough estimate of what those entering arbitration can expect.

If the Reds extend offers to all nine arbitration eligible players, Cincinnati can expect to spend in the ballpark of $20M-$30M. Castillo is expected to take home between $3M-$5.8M and Winker is predicted to earn between $2M-$3.4M in 2021. That puts payroll heading into the offseason around $122M-$132M.

The Reds could decide to cut bait with a few of those players up for arbitration such as Robert Stephenson (expected to make $600K) and Brian Goodwin (expected to make between $2.7M-$3.6M) if they wanted to save about $3M-$4M. But, that still puts the budget around $119M-$129M as the offseason approaches.

Then there’s the matter of the pre-arbitration eligible players like Nick Senzel, Lucas Sims, Aristides Aquino and Tejay Antone. Those players, who have fewer than three years of service time, will make the league minimum in 2021. According to Baseball Reference, the Reds needed 11 of those players to fill out the roster last season with an estimated average of $6.44M.

If we account for all nine arbitration-eligible players, plus the eight players (including Nick Castellanos) with guaranteed deals for next season, the Reds would need nine players to fill out the reminder of the roster. If all nine of those players made the minimum (563K) heading into next season, that would account for another $5.067M.

So, if we add all that up, the Cincinnati Reds payroll heading into the offseason is sitting somewhere between $127M-$137M depending on how the arbitration process works out. As we mentioned, that number could down a little if the Reds non-tender a few players up for arbitration. If Castellanos opts out of his contract, that would take the payroll down by $14M.

In terms of spending, it’s hard to see the Reds adding many pieces to the puzzle this offseason. I certainly don’t believe Cincinnati will have the means to bring back Trevor Bauer. With the deal he’s likely to receive, Bauer’s contract would put the Reds over $150M heading into 2021. I just can’t see that happening after a pandemic-shortened season saw no fans in attendance.

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Sorry Reds fans, but from where I’m sitting, I’d expect a pretty pedestrian offseason from the front office. We may see some trades, but don’t look for Cincinnati to jump into the free agent market like we saw last winter.