Play It Again, Walt

by on January 28, 2011 · 6 comments

Same song, different verse, eh Walt?

MVP-caliber first baseman with bright future?  Check.  Injury prone third baseman?  Check.  Potentially talented pitching staff led by innings eater who is signed through the next several seasons?  Check.  Talented young nucleus mixed with veteran leadership and experienced bullpen help?  Check. 

Sound familiar?  We’re either talking about the current Cincinnati Reds team or the Cardinals under Walt Jocketty.  It’s hard to argue that Jocketty doesn’t have a philosophy and a will to stick with it.  The question is whether or not the Reds can afford it.  A quick glance at their roster and payroll numbers suggests that the Reds are headed to an opening day payroll of around $75-78M which isn’t a substantial increase over where they ended 2010.  The real work begins after 2011, because that’s when the Jay Bruce and Joey Votto contracts begin to accelerate.  Assuming that they pick up the team option on Brandon Phillips in 2012, consider what they will have committed to just 6 players for that season.

That’s $45.5M for 6 players, and that doesn’t include a $12M team option for Francisco Cordero that I expect the team will politely decline in favor of the $1M buyout.  Those same 6 players cost the team just $30.74M in 2010, so imagine how challenging it will be to build a roster around them with approximately the same amount of money (or less) left over in 2012 as in 2010.  Keep in mind that the Reds could have 5 players from the 2010 roster who will be arbitration-eligible for the 1st time prior to 2012.  Now, please don’t mistake this analysis for criticism of Walt Jocketty.  I don’t think he’s been in his position long enough to earn complete grades as of yet, but I do think that some long-time observers may recognize history repeating itself. 

Will Walt continue to fall back on the familiar and maintain the same approach to team building, or will he adapt to the current reality and build a sustainable program in Cincinnati?  As a Cardinals fan, I’m hoping that he hasn’t lost the phone numbers for Jeff Weaver, Jeff Suppan, Aaron Miles, David Eckstein, and So Taguchi.

TIDBIT:  The Reds already have $36M committed to the 2013 payroll to 3 players (Arroyo, Bruce, and Votto), and that’s the contract year for Votto.

MORE BITS OF TID:  The Reds have also just announced a contract extension for Johnny Cueto which keeps him in the fold through 2014 with a team option for 2015.

Like it?    Are you hoping that the 4 yr / $27M deal for Cueto blows up all over Jocketty?  Follow me on Twitter, and we’ll politely golf clap every walk that Cueto gives up for the next 4 years.

Cardinals fan since I could hold a fishing pole steady. Accidental blogger. Opinionated. I could care less about what you think of me. Constantly confounded, bemused, and confuzzled (ie I'm a pc and a mac). I'm an IT infrastructure analyst with a penchant for breaking tech toys. I ate a sabermetric primer for breakfast. I love playing "All-powerful GM of MLB". The 2010 Cardinals represented a good, practical definition "cognitive dissonance". The 2011 version got by on duct tape and a prayer, and I'm fine with that. They just need new tape for #12 in 12.
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camisadelgolf February 2, 2011

2011 payroll = $74.565MM

2012 payroll = $55.850MM + ~$14MM for arbitration (assuming Phillips’ option is picked up). Since the budget will be about $80MM, that gives the Reds ~$10MM to spend on retaining Ramon Hernandez, Edgar Renteria, Jonny Gomes, and/or Francisco Cordero. All of those players already have in-house replacements (Devin Mesoraco, Zack Cozart, Todd Frazier, and a plethora of relievers).

2013 payroll = $50.390MM + ~$26MM for arbitration, which would leave about $5MM to keep Scott Rolen and/or Miguel Cairo.

2014 is when things get interesting. The Reds would likely have about $25MM to spend, but they have a ton of free agents to retain: Joey Votto, Fred Lewis, Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez, Nick Masset, and Jared Burton. So basically, they could afford Votto and one or two of the pitchers, but say goodbye to Lewis (who may be non-tendered by then anyway) and Arroyo (who may be DFAed by that point anyway).

Financially, the Reds are in great position, but there are going to be some very difficult decisions to make in a couple years.

Dennis February 2, 2011

Thanks for taking the time to read and provide feedback. If the approach is to try and peak for the next 1-2 years before the Cubs and reload/rebuild, then I’d say that the Reds are in really good financial shape. If they are building for the long-term, then they do indeed have a lot of question marks.

For 2011, I have them at $70.555M for 18 players, and 1 of their remaining players is arb1. For 2012, I don’t have the same base number that you do, though. I’ve got $44.4M for 8 players, if they don’t exercise the Phillips or Cordero options. I’ve got $55.4M, if they pick up the Phillips option but still decline the Cordero one.

For 2013, I have them at $45.4M for Arroyo, Bruce, Votton, Cueto, and Chapman and a lot of arbitration-eligible players on the current roster. I think things will already be interesting for them at that point, because all it takes is for one or two of those players to have good years to push prices uncomfortably higher. Given the ages of both Rolen and Cairo, can also envision Jocketty shopping for a different 3B for 2013 long before that point.

If Votto is playing anywhere near an MVP-caliber level over the next few years, I think the Reds will have trouble affording him. Even a below market deal at that point could cost $25M/yr, and even with some steady revenue growth that would be a huge chunk of the payroll by 2014. That’s not the scenario I’d wish on Cincy after seeing what happened with A-Gon in San Diego and Pujols in St. Louis, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

camisadelgolf February 8, 2011

Sorry, I mean to get back to this, but it slipped my mind. Here’s how I see the payrolls:
3.000 Ramon Hernandez
8.000 Joey Votto
12.250 Brandon Phillips (including buyout)
8.200 Scott Rolen (including signing bonus)
3.000 Edgar Renteria (including incentives)
2.000 Jonny Gomes (including incentives)
0.450 Drew Stubbs
2.750 Jay Bruce
0.450 Ryan Hanigan
0.450 Paul Janish
0.900 Fred Lewis
0.420 Chris Heisey
1.000 Miguel Cairo
6.500 Bronson Arroyo
0.450 Homer Bailey
3.400 Johnny Cueto
1.625 Edinson Volquez
0.410 Travis Wood
13.000 Francisco Cordero (including buyout)
2.500 Aroldis Chapman (including signing bonus)
1.545 Nick Masset
0.750 Jared Burton
0.645 Bill Bray
0.420 Logan Ondrusek
0.450 Jose Arredondo
That’s also not to mention the Major League contracts owed to Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso. But not including those, that adds up to $74.565M.


??.??? Ryan Hanigan
11.000 Joey Votto
11.250 Brandon Phillips
8.200 Scott Rolen (including bonus)
??.??? Paul Janish
??.??? Fred Lewis
0.500 Drew Stubbs
5.000 Jay Bruce
0.400 Devin Mesoraco
0.400 Zack Cozart
0.410 Todd Frazier
0.450 Chris Heisey
1.000 Miguel Cairo
7.000 Bronson Arroyo
3.500 Aroldis Chapman (including bonus)
5.400 Johnny Cueto
??.??? Edinson Volquez
0.450 Travis Wood
??.??? Nick Masset
??.??? Homer Bailey
??.??? Jose Arredondo
??.??? Jared Burton
??.??? Bill Bray
0.450 Logan Ondrusek
0.440 Mike Leake

The guys with question marks are arbitration eligible. I estimate the totals at something like this:

2.400 Edinson Volquez
1.000 Bill Bray
1.500 Ryan Hanigan
1.000 Paul Janish
1.400 Fred Lewis
2.350 Nick Masset
1.500 Homer Bailey
1.000 Jose Arredondo
1.100 Jared Burton

In total, that’s $69.1M for 2012, but that means the Reds wouldn’t re-sign Ramon Hernandez, Edgar Renteria, Jonny Gomes, nor Francisco Cordero.

For 2013, here’s what I have:

??.??? Ryan Hanigan
19.000 Joey Votto
0.400 Billy Hamilton
0.420 Todd Frazier
??.??? Paul Janish
??.??? Fred Lewis
??.??? Drew Stubbs
7.500 Jay Bruce
0.420 Devin Mesoraco
0.420 Zack Cozart
0.410 Dave Sappelt
??.??? Chris Heisey
0.420 Chris Valaika
6.500 Bronson Arroyo
6.500 Aroldis Chapman
7.400 Johnny Cueto
??.??? Edinson Volquez
0.500 Travis Wood
??.??? Nick Masset
??.??? Homer Bailey
??.??? Jose Arredondo
??.??? Jared Burton
??.??? Bill Bray
??.??? Logan Ondrusek
0.460 Mike Leake

Once again, there are a lot of arbitration eligible players. I estimate them at a total of about $26M. All together, I’d say that’s about $76.4M. This means the Reds would not re-sign Brandon Phillips, Scott Rolen, and Miguel Cairo.

Dennis February 8, 2011

Ah, I understand now. That’s definitely a different way of presenting the information, but I can follow it. I find it a little confusing to add in both a buyout amount and a potential salary for the same year, because it seems rather unlikely that the team will pay both to the player. That’s why I usually consider minimum commitments and then other possible scenarios involving options, but I usually avoid the temptation of guessing about potential restructuring of contracts. Regardless, I appreciate that you took the time to return to this thread with so much information.

As an outsider looking in, it appears that the Reds are banking on a lot of young talent contributing in significant ways for years to come. It also seems that they are at risk of becoming top-heavy in terms of payroll by the time 2014 rolls around. For their sake, I hope that they don’t go through what the Cardinals are going through now with Pujols, but Albert and Votto do share the same agent.

camisadelgolf February 8, 2011

I don’t think you quite understand exactly how I came to those numbers. Let’s look at Brandon Phillips and Francisco Cordero as examples:
2011 – $11.25M base salary + $1.0M buyout for 2012
2012 – $12.0M base salary – $1.0M buyout

Francisco Cordero
2011 – $12.0M base salary + $1.0M buyout for 2012
2012 – $0.0M
In the case of Cordero, most people would put that buyout toward 2012, but the buyout is actually paid in 2011. If the Reds decide to pick up the option, I’d put $11.0M toward 2012 instead of $12.0M.

Do you see what I’m saying? There isn’t really any guessing involved other than assuming that Phillips’ option is being picked up and Cordero’s option is declined.

But I completely agree with you about the 2014 comment. Keeping Votto around would essentially mean that 30% of the payroll is tied in one player. Is it worth it? It’s hard to say right now, but the Reds might want to start putting more energy into grooming Yonder Alonso if it’s not the case.

Dennis February 8, 2011

Yes, I do see what you’re saying, but I think the buyouts apply to the contract year and not the calendar year for the purposes of payroll calculation.

I’m guessing that the Reds can grow their revenues with some on-field success, but I don’t know what a reasonable ceiling is for local revenue there. It seems like that’s one team/city that could really benefit from an economic turnaround.

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