The dismal national and world economy won’t have an immediate impact on the payroll of the 2009 Cincinnati Reds, but it most likely will have an affect on free agency.
Owner Bob Castellini is committed to a payroll in the mid-$80 million range, a slight uptick from last season’s $73 million, says general manager Walt Jocketty.
“We know it is a very tough economy and it will affect revenue for every club,” he said.
While many fans believe the Reds have a lot of wiggle room on their payroll after the trades last season of Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn, approximately $30 million what, they don’t realize is that a significant portion of that must go for contractual raises for second baseman Brandon Phillips plus pitchers Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo and Francisco Cordero.
That alone limits what the Reds can do on the free agent market, but Jocketty also says, “It is not really a good free agent crop this year. There are a couple of top-level guys, then it falls off quite a bit. There are a couple of players we might pursue, but their prices could knock us off.”
The Reds have nine free agents on the market and Jocketty said the club has made offers to a few.
“We’re interested in a handful,” he said. “We’ve talked to (pitcher) Mike Lincoln and (infielder/outfielder) Jerry Hairston Jr. Some of the other have indicated they want to try the free agent market.
One of those is pitcher David Weathers, who Jocketty is interested in bringing back, but late last season Weathers said, “No more hometown discounts. I’m going to see what’s out there.”
In addition to Lincoln, Hairston and Weathers, Reds who field for free agency are pitcher Jeremy Affeldt, catcher Paul Bako, pitcher Josh Fogg, pitcher Kent Mercker, outfielder Corey Patterson and catcher Javier Valentin.
Jocketty said the team is not interested in bringing back either Bako or Patterson and Mercker most likely will retire.
“It look as if the best way for us to go is through trades and from our system,” said Jocketty.
Jocketty is talking with several teams about trades, one of which is Colorado. Names that have surfaced include outfielder/leadoff hitter Will Taveras, catcher Yorvit Torrealba and third baseman Garrett Atkins.
All three fit into needs as the Reds search for a righthanded power hitter (Atkins — .286, 21 homers, 99 RBIs), a catcher (Torrealba — .246 in 70 games, most in a back-up role) and an outfielder/leadoff hitter (Taveras, who led the league with 68 stolen bases, but hit only .251 with a .308 on-base average).
The Rockies are searching for starting pitchers, but are not interested in Homer Bailey.
“We’ll do what we can to improve our team by any means — free agents we can afford, trades or within the system,” said Jocketty.