Calling it clearing up salary. Call it making room on the 40 and 25-man rosters. Call it what you want. In this post, I'll list six individuals that will be, or should be playing their last year with the Reds in 2009 (or hopefully sooner). I will also list their much cheaper and younger (and sometimes better) replacements.
I'll list these in order of priority of needing to go.
1. Willy Taveras - $2.2M in 2009 and signed for 2010 at $4M ($6.2M total). Dead horse, I know, but he needs to be shown the door, like yesterday.
REPLACEMENT: Chris Dickerson - $400k. Whether Dickerson does it alone or platoons with Drew Stubbs, there is no doubt that he can be a more productive player than Taveras, at a fraction of the cost. With Heisey tearing it up in AA, this is as big a no-brainer as you'll find. Admit a moment of weakness, ignorance, or plain stupidity, Walt, and trade (give away) or dump Willy and then bring up Stubbs to platoon him with CD in CF. If you are too stubborn to part with Willy, sit him on the bench as a PR.
Summary: Taveras cost (2009-2010): $6.2M; Dickerson cost (2009-2010): $800K; Stubbs + Dickerson cost (2009-2010): $1.6M........result: better play in CF, better offensive production, and could have saved $4.6M over two years. Gee, there's a enough there for a big chunk of the LF bat we cried poor on.
2. Alex Gonzalez - $5.4M in 2009. 500k buyout in 2010 ($5.9M total). AGon has now treaded into Royce Clayton territory. Average glove, horrendous bat.
REPLACEMENT: Paul Janish - $400k. Janish has a better glove. His bat may be the same (or even worse), but for some reason I'd feel better with the younger guy at SS. Drew Sutton is an option as well, although he's more of a bat than glove. Regardless, this is an organization that trotted out Jerry Hairston and Jeff Keppinger at short. Sutton could be no worse with the glove and probably be an equal or better with the bat than those two guys.
Summary: AGon cost (2009-2010): $5.9M; Janish or Sutton cost (2009-2010): $800K........result: better glove with Janish (although similar weak bat), better bat with Sutton (with possibly weaker to similar average glove) and could have saved $5.1M over two years. That's assuming someone would have wanted Gonzalez, prior to the 2009 season. I don't think anyone would have wanted him so he's a sunk cost (unlike going out and blowing $6.2M on Willy T.).
3. Mike Lincoln - $1.5M in 2009 and signed for 2010 at $2.5M ($4M total). Lincoln had a solid 2008 and with it the Reds gave him a roll of scratch offs in which one resulted in a big winner. That's the way I like to think of it, at least. This guy makes for a wonderful story and it's true that good things happen to good people. His perseverance was rewarded with $4M lottery ticket. It's time to move on. It was time before the season started. Oh well.
REPLACEMENT: Josh Roenicke or Carlos Fisher - $400k. Both of these RHP's have paid their dues and then some. They both have good stuff and other than experience (which they can't get unless they get a chance) they have everything on a Mike Lincoln, at again, a fraction of the cost.
Summary: Lincoln cost (2009-2010): $4M; Roenicke or Fisher cost (2009-2010): $800K. A $3.2M dollar savings. Add that to the $4.6M that could have been saved by NOT acquiring Willy Taveras and you now have $7.8M at your disposal over a two year period.....with likely better results. Scary.
4. Jerry Hairston, Jr. - $2M in 2009. Nothing owed for 2010? Not even a buyout? Whew! I don't look at this one as a horrible signing. Sure, Adam Rosales could give you similar production at multiple positions, and sure, Hairston probably "careered" in 2008, but there is a use for him and I don't look at him as being someone that needs moved. I'm listing him because, in all likelihood, he will be gone in 2010 and Rosales, Sutton, or someone similar can take his place and save the franchise $1.6M doing so.
REPLACEMENT: Adam Rosales. Drew Sutton. Etc. - $400k (2010).
Summary: Hairston cost (2009): $2M; Rosales or Sutton cost (2010): $400K. $1.6M off the books in 2010.
5. David Weathers - $3.7M in 2009. 400k buyout in 2010 ($4.1M total). I like David Weathers. Not for $4.1M a year, but I like David Weathers. He does a lot of good for this bullpen and team, however if the Reds are out of it, I wouldn't be surprised to see him dealt by the deadline. If not, he still will probably be bought out in 2010, thus saving the Reds over $3M in 2010.
REPLACEMENT: Josh Roenicke or Carlos Fisher - $400k.
Summary: Weathers cost (2009-2010): $4.1M; Roenicke or Fisher cost (2009-2010): $800K. A $3.3M dollar savings, had Weathers not been tendered. I don't think it was a horrible decision to tender him. The plan backfired a bit and it is what it is. The important thing is, that going forward, the Reds will have $3.3M off the books in 2010.
6. Ramon Hernandez - $8M in 2009. $1M buyout on 2010 ($9M total...although Reds on the hook for only $7M). Another guy I like and feel he was a decent acquisition. As a catcher, his bat is tolerable. As a 1B, it is not. He has done an admirable job filling in for Joey Votto and his defense at 1B has been a pleasant surprise, but he really should only be playing 1B as an emergency (which he is). His bat makes it tough to swallow, seeing him continually get starts out there. Let say this. I'll take this guy over Javy Valentin, but that's not saying a lot. This isn't a hindsight thing as much as discussed above with Taveras and Lincoln. This is more of a Weathers type deal in that we can thank him for 2009 and at least move forward in 2010, clearing some money off the books.
REPLACEMENT: Ryan Hanigan or Craig Tatum- $400k. Hanigan already is here, I understand, but I feel Hanigan has solidified himself as the Reds starting catcher in 2010 and can hold down the fort, at that position, until Walt swings a deal or Mesoraco, Bour, or Fluery take over in three years (maybe Barnhart in four). If Hanigan gets 120-130 starts, who back him up? Well, there are two other catchers on the 40-man roster. I'd prefer the one that can hit his weight and catch and throw. How about Craig Tatum? Ok, Tatum can't hit his weight. I think this is where we need to throw caution to the wind and just hope it works out. We cannot afford to pay Hernandez big bucks to act as a uber utility catcher, when we have three others on the 40-man. We've been down this road before. If he can re-sign for cheap (say $2-3M), I'm cool with bringing Ramon back, but I'm also cool with taking our chances on Hanigan and Tatum/Castillo as back-up's.
Summary: Hernandez cost (2009-2010): $7M; Tatum/Castillo cost (2009-2010): $800K. A $6.2M dollar savings.
There you have it. Sure there will some raises in 2010. Arroyo and Harang each with $1.5M ($3M in raises between the two). Phillips a $2M raise. Encarnacion a $1.9M raise. Gomes and Nix will be arbitration eligible. The point is that these six mentioned players (Taveras, Gonzalez, Lincoln, Hairston, Weathers, and Hernandez) need to come off or will come off the books in 2010 (or hopefully sooner) and can be replaced by better (or at least equal) talent at a much cheaper price.
As long as Walt doesn't go out and sign more overpriced and/or aging veterans, this club has a nice future of young, cheap talent to serve as a foundation and some payroll flexibility moving forward.