Here's the challenge: You play GM and construct a 2010 Cincinnati Reds squad that you think has the best chance to contend. But you have to follow these five rules to play the game:
1. Your total player budget must have a cap of $75 million.
2. You are permitted no more than three free-agent signings.
3. You are permitted no more than three trades, and they should be reasonably realistic trades.
4. Projected salaries you attach to free-agents or players requiring new contracts should be within the realm of the real, and all salaries for returning players should be those already negotiated (see figures below).
5. You must allow $5 million to cover fixed, sunken costs that the Reds might owe to players like Taveras, Hernandez or Lincoln, who might be cut this winter or otherwise not able to contribute next season. For the sake of leveling the playing field, all contenders in the Challenge must include this $5 million "tax" in calculating their $75 million total.
I'll get the ball rolling with my Challenge team:
1. Either catcher Rod Barajas (Blue Jays) or Miguel Olivo (Royals) at $2.5 million to split duties behind the plate with Ryan Hanigan.
2. Veteran utility infielder Jamey Carroll (Indians) to back up 2B, 3B and OF at $1.5 million.
1. Francisco Cordero (salaried at $12 million) and prospect Todd Frazier to the LA Angels for closer Brian Fuentes and SS Maicer Izturis.
1. Johnny Gomes, LF, at $2 million.
2. Laynce Nix, LF, at $1 million.
3. Jared Burton, relief pitcher, at $1 million.
My $75 million team:
C Barajas or Olivo $2.5 million
1B Votto $0.5 million
2B Phillips $6.75 million
SS Izturis $2.5 million
3B Rolen $10 million
LF Gomes $2 million
CF Stubbs $0.5 million
RF Bruce $0.5 million
C Hanigan $0.5 million
SS Janish $0.5 million
Util Inf Carroll $1.5 million
OF-1B Nix $1 million (I'd require Nix to spend the winter working out at 1B as a condition of his re-signing)
OF Dickerson $0.5 million
Harang $12.5 million
Arroyo $11 million
Cueto $0.5 million
Bailey $0.5 million
Maloney/Volquez $0.5 million
Owings $0.5 million
Fisher $0.5 million
Herrera $0.5 million
Burton $1 million
Rhodes $2 million
Masset $0.5 million
Fuentes $9 million
Dead Wood Pile $5 million
Total Budget $74.25 million
I use the $750,000 left over to sign Kip Wells to an incentive-laden minor league deal that would kick into much higher gear ($2-$3 million) if he started 12 or more games at the major league level. He wouldn't get these starts unless the season was going badly, in which case, either Harang or Arroyo would be sent packing, more than amply covering Wells' salary bump-up.
There you have it. My team. Can you construct a better one? I'm sure many of you can, so let's see the deals, the signings, the brilliant strategery.