Frightening figure awaits Reds 2022 payroll heading into the offseason

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) and third baseman Eugenio Suárez.
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) and third baseman Eugenio Suárez. / Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In 2021, according to Cot's Baseball Prospectus, the Cincinnati Reds payroll was sitting at about $122.3M heading into Opening Day. That figure was about $4.5M less than what the team spent in 2019. So, what does the Reds 2022 payroll look like heading into the offseason? The number is a bit frightening.

Cincinnati has five players already under contract for the 2022 season. Joey Votto, Eugenio Suárez, Mike Moustakas, Sonny Gray, and Shogo Akiyama will collectively account for approximately $71M. Both Gray and Akiyama will be free agents after next season.

What might the Reds payroll look like in 2022?

There exists the possibility, slim as it may seem, that Nick Castellanos will choose not to exercise the opportunity to opt out of his current contract. If Castellanos does not exercise that option, the Reds will then have six players under contract and about $87M committed to next year's payroll.

Tucker Barnhart and Wade Miley also have club-options for the 2022 season. The clock is ticking for the Reds battery mates. If Cincinnati decides to pick up both, that would add another $17.5M to next year's payroll.

Justin Wilson has an interesting contract. Wilson's deal contains a $2.3M player-option, $7.15M club-option, or a $1.15M buyout. The left-hander will likely be taking home $2.3M in 2022, bringing the total to $106.8M.

Now, let's approach this realistically. Nick Castellanos is highly likely to opt out of his contract, the Reds will then extend a qualifying offer to the slugger that he'll likely reject. The Reds would then acquire draft compensation if Castellanos signs elsewhere.

I can easily see the Cincinnati Reds picking up Miley's $10M team-option, but I find it unlikely that the team will pick up Barnhart's $7.5M option, preferring instead to pay the $500K buyout. Wilson will likely pick up his $2.3M player-option. Under this assumption, the Reds payroll will be sitting at $83.3M heading into next season.

Which Reds players are eligible for arbitration?

Now let's look at those players who are arbitration eligible. Using MLB Trade Rumors as a guide, it's estimated that the Reds will owe approximately $33M to the 10 players who are reportedly up for arbitration. It remains to be seen if Nick Senzel reached Super Two status or not.

If the Cincinnati Reds retain all 10 of those players at the estimated $33M, combined with the $83.3M worth of guaranteed contracts for Votto, Suárez, Moustakas, Akiyama, Gray, Wilson, and Miley, the 2022 payroll will be sitting around $116.3M.

That, however, only accounts for 17 of the necessary 26 players required for the Opening Day roster. Assuming those additional nine players will be making the league minimum, go ahead and tack on about $6M for a grand total of $122.3M.

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Does that number look familiar? It should. It's the estimated amount that the Cincinnati Reds payroll was on Opening Day last season. So, will next year's budget be the same? Will we see a slight increase in spending? Will payroll be slashed again? We'll just have to wait and see.