3 bold moves to turn the Reds into a title contender

Reds players Kyle Farmer and Nick Castellanos celebrate.
Reds players Kyle Farmer and Nick Castellanos celebrate. / Jamie Sabau/GettyImages
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Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee pitcher Nick Lodolo (86) delivers in the bullpen.
Cincinnati Reds non-roster invitee pitcher Nick Lodolo (86) delivers in the bullpen. / Kareem Elgazzar via Imagn Content

3. The Reds should roll with their rookie pitchers.

If the Cincinnati Reds retain Nick Castellanos, they'll have to trim payroll somehow. I can't see the Redlegs heading into 2022 with a payroll much larger than what was on the books in 2021.

The Reds payroll was sitting at about $122M last season and if Cincinnati brings back Wade Miley, allows Tucker Barnhart to walk, and pays an estimated $33M to those players who are arbitration eligible, they'll be sitting at about $122M once again.

Now, that figure assumes that Nick Castellanos opts out of his contract and is not retained. If Castellanos and the Reds can come to some sort of agreement, you'd have to guess that his 2022 salary would be at least in the ballpark of the $16M he's owed if he were to stay.

That takes the Reds estimated payroll from $122M to about $138M. That would shatter the team's all-time highest payroll by about $13M according to Cot's Baseball Contracts. I can assure you, after the team's lowest attendance (1,505,000) since 1984, Bob Castellini is not going to increase payroll.

That means the Reds must get creative and find a way to trade away some of their more lucrative contracts; namely Mike Moustakas ($16M), Sonny Gray ($10.8), and/ or Wade Miley ($10M).

Cincinnati should not have any trouble finding a trade partner for Gray or Miley. Both are under reasonable contracts that would only be guaranteed through next season.

Trading Moose is another story. The Reds would have to take on a bad contract and/ or include some high-value prospects in order to offload the third baseman and his two-year/$36M contract. I don't see that happening.

Cincinnati's best bet would be to trade Gray and possibly Miley as well. This would shed a little more than $20M off the team's payroll for next season and allow the Reds to retain Nick Castellanos. But what about those two spots in the rotation?

That's where the Reds top two prospects come in. There's little more that Hunter Greene and Nick Lodolo have to prove in the minor leagues. It's time for those two to be elevated to the big league roster and find a home in the starting rotation.

The Cincinnati Reds 2022 rotation would then consist of Greene, Lodolo, Luis Castillo, Tyler Mahle, and Vladimir Gutierrez. Reiver Sanmartin could be in the mix, and Graham Ashcraft is a name to keep an eye on as well.

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So there you have it. Three bold moves to turn the Cincinnati Reds into contenders next season. If the Reds hope to contend next season, it's going to take some bold maneuvering on the part of Nick Krall and the front office.