Castellini not discouraged
Rivals' spendfest is no deterrent
BY JOHN FAY | ENQUIRER STAFF WRITER
The Reds are going to put on the biggest and what they think will be the best Redsfest ever.
"We've gone over the top with everything," CEO Bob Castellini said. "It's going to be fantastic."
The return of Redsfest, which opens today at 4 p.m. at Duke Energy Center in an expanded form, is part of Castellini's promise to build a championship organization. The Reds are working hard to sell their product.
But improving the on-the-field product in the current baseball environment is a completely different and difficult endeavor.
Castellini has watched the price of doing business skyrocket this offseason. He has been involved in baseball ownership for almost 30 years, but he says he has been shocked by the amount of money that is being tossed around recently.
"It's absurd," he said. "Paying $70 million for one pitcher for one year? That's a lot of people's payroll."
Castellini was referring to the Boston Red Sox and Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Sox paid $51.1 million for the rights to negotiate with the Japanese star. His salary will push the deal to $70 million.
Closer to home - the National League Central - the Chicago Cubs have agreed to $233 million in free agent contracts this offseason, including the $138 million, eight-year whopper for Alfonso Soriano.
The Houston Astros signed Carlos Lee to an eight-year, $100 million contract.
Castellini, however, said he's not discouraged.
"Of course, not," he said. "We wouldn't be in the game if we were."
The Reds' player payroll was $60.9 million at the start of last season. It will go up this season, but the club is not saying how much.
While the money spent by clubs has gone up considerably - largely as a result of the new labor agreement - Castellini was well aware of what he was getting into when he led a group that bought the club on Jan. 19.
"Absolutely," he said. "It's always been hard. You have to work hard. You have to work smart."
The Reds signed two free agents early. They signed shortstop Alex Gonzalez for $14 million over three years and left-handed reliever Mike Stanton for $5.5 million over two years. They also traded Jason LaRue to Kansas City, despite having to pay $3 million of his $5.3 million salary.
The signing of Gonzalez points to an effort to make a long-term fix by improving the defense. But Castellini is not conceding anything for next season. He thinks the club can contend again.
"We don't plan to be wallflowers," he said. "We're working on this thing 24/7."
Based on the players under contract and what players like Aaron Harang and Kyle Lohse can expect in arbitration, the Reds' payroll is already close to $70 million, which would be a club record. Castellini said how that money is spent is up to general manager Wayne Krivsky.
"He has parameters," Castellini said. "But it's up to him. He talks to me regularly. But he has a wide swath. He knows what he can do and can't do."