I know we’re living in a Bengal, Bearcat, prep football world these days. But I went ahead and wrote a Sunday Insider anyway. Here’s a free preview:
I’d tried to get a hold of Bob Castellini last week. But he was out of the country. You know how absorbent the international cell phone rates are. We’re kidding there, but money is tight in Redsland these days.
How tight? Only Castellini can answer that. He’s the CEO. The final budget is his call.
The fact that the Reds pushed a long-time employee like Wilma Mann to retire and aren’t replacing others who leave tells you the club is counting pennies in business in which it takes millions of dollars to win.
It’s telling that when asked last week if he needed to cut player payroll to balance the budget, general manager Walt Jocketty said “not yet.”
The implication is that could happen. It probably depends on how season-ticket renewals go. I’m told that early renewals are promising.
But if that trend doesn’t continue, and the Reds have to slash payroll to make budget, it means they’ll have to trade Brandon Phillips or Bronson Arroyo.
Here’s my logic on that:
Let’s say the payroll is going to be $65 million, down from $73.5 million last year. The Reds already have $59.25 million committed to six players for 2010: Aaron Harang ($12.5 million), Francisco Cordero ($12 million), Scott Rolen ($11 million), Bronson Arroyo ($11 million), Brandon Phillips ($6.75 million), Willy Taveras ($4 million) and Arthur Rhodes ($2 million).
Even if all 18 of the other players on the roster make the $400,000 minimum, they’ll account for $7.2 million. That added up to $66.45 million.
The Reds aren’t going to trade Rolen – they just got him. Harang’s value is so far down, the Reds would probably have to pay half of his salary just to get another club to take him. Cordero is so expensive, only a handful of teams could afford him. As far as Taveras, do I really have to explain why he’d be hard to trade.
That leaves Phillips and Arroyo.
My advice in both cases is don’t do it. One caveat: If the Marlins want to trade Hanley Ramirez for either, do it. But I think trading either for prospects – or even young, unproven big leaguers – would be foolish.
Sportswriters love to spend owners money under the you’ve-got-to-spend-money-to-make-money premise, which rings pretty hallow coming from guys who never really made money.
But, in this case, I think you’re risking further alienating the fans over $5.5 or $3.375 million. That’s half of what Arroyo or Phillips will make.
I’d start the season with both on the roster and see how it goes. If it goes well, the fans will start buying tickets to help balance the budget. If it goes bad, Arroyo and Harang can be moved at the deadline.
This club is close enough to competing that 2010 could be the year. The Reds were 27-13 over the last 40 games of the season. The addition of Rolen made the club better.
Homer Bailey was the best pitcher in baseball over the last six weeks of the season (6-1, 1.70 ERA). Johnny Cueto went 3-1 with a 3.63 over his last six starts. He should be better after an offseason of rest.
Jay Bruce started to live up to his potential after coming back from the broken wrist.
The Reds have a good bit of talent in minors that is close to big-league ready.
Of course, it’s easy to make the argument the other way. The Reds have big questions in the leadoff and the second spot in the order. Left field is still a big question mark.
Drew Stubbs played well after his call-up, but he’s a guy who hit .269 in 1,588 minor league at-bats.
But, again, if it goes bad, have your fire sale in July. But trading your best starter (Arroyo) or your best all-round player (Phillips), in December makes selling tickets in January very difficult.
Unless, of course, the Marlins offer Ramirez.