In today’s Enquirer, John Fay talks about the Reds payroll.

The Reds basically have made three transactions since the Casey trade.

They signed utilityman Ryan Freel to a two-year, $3 million contract.

They signed catcher Jason LaRue to a two-year, $9.1 million contract.

And they signed left-handed relief pitcher Chris Hammond to an $800,000, one-year deal.

By my calculations, that leaves all or almost all of the Casey/Morris money in the 2006 budget. Remember, LaRue and Freel probably would have gotten more had they gone to arbitration.

I don’t think anyone could dispute Fay’s point. IMO, there is no doubt that both Freel and LaRue would have received more in arbitration than the $3.9M and $1.3M (respectively) that they’ll be playing for in ’06.

By my calculations, if Opening Day were tomorrow, the Reds’ payroll would come in at a little less than $57 million.

On Opening Day last season, it was $61.8 million. That counted Eric Milton at $5.3 million, but with his signing bonus, he made $8.5 million. So the actual payroll was closer to $65 million.

The Reds have maintained all along that the 2006 payroll would be at about the same level as last season’s.

So do the Reds have $5 million to $8 million to play with?

“How you compute the number and how we do are not the same,” Reds general manager Dan O’Brien said. “Our projections include everyone on the 40-man roster and the expenses associated with it. We have some limited (funds) to use.”

So, is OB just making excuses for not significantly improving the pitching staff or could he be waiting around for the new ownership group to take over?

But then Fay has an idea.

But if the Chicago White Sox are serious about dealing Jose Contreras, his $8.5 million salary shouldn’t prevent the Reds from trying to land him.

After all, that’s what Morris turned down.

I can’t find Contreras’ contract situation, other than he’s owed $8.5M for ’06.

Morris is going to be 31, Contreras is 33, at least. (Age records of Cuban born players are always open to question.)

In the last four years, Morris ERA+ is 104, 89, 111, and 114; Contreras is 123, 93, 80 (which does show that he’s getting better, but with his age, it’s tough to be confident that this trend will continue).

Both give up homers:

Morris: 22, 35, 20, 16
Contreras: 23, 31, 4

Despite this, Contreras does seem to keep the ball on the ground. (G/F%, 1.21, 1.07, 1.71).

In summation, if the Reds could get Contreras for one year at $8.5M, I’d suggest they take it. A rotation in 2006 with Contreras in the #1 slot, with Harang, Claussen, and Williams following him would be vastly improved on what they trotted to the mound in the recent past.

The only problem with this thinking is that you KNOW that they’re also going to give Wilson and Milton regular starts also. Wilson, when healthy, is usually steady at a little less than league average and we saw Milton last year. The problem is, unless the new ownership is willing to eat contracts (a la Danny Graves), these two guys are going to be in the rotation.

But back to Contreras…If there are 2 or more years left on his deal, I’d pass.

I just see no real way this team puts a competitive rotation on the field this year, without eating a large amount of contract money (i.e. Milton). Without dramatic improvement over last year’s rotation, I don’t see how this team can even finish above .500.

4 Responses

  1. Blue

    This will be the final year of Jose’s contract. I think Rotoworld said that he’d be looking for something like a three year $36 million contract. I think he would be worth it, his body looks like it can handle the wear and tear of pitching through age 37. However, Chicago is believed to want prospects and bullpen help, and its debatable whether or not the Reds have or would be willing to part with the prospects to get him. Some people have also said that Dunn should be signed to an LTC before the Reds take on any other high salary players.

    My take on this depends on the new owners. If they are going to be more of the same, then I wouldn’t trade for Contreras because it could mean not signing Dunn to an LTC this year. However, if the new ownership is willing to spend money to sign a couple FAs next offseason, it would definitely be worth it, provided a REALLY good pitching prospect doesn’t have to go. We could trade for him, let him see what the NL feels like for a pitcher, as well as see what it feels like to have some very good run support when he takes the mound. Then new owner could get him signed to a new deal. Then look at some of the other possible free agents next offseason (some of which will probably resign with their current teams:

    Kelvim Escobar
    Andy Pettitte
    Mark Mulder
    Barry Zito
    Tom Glavine
    Greg Maddux

    Contreras + one of those guys (especially one of the first four) would give us a solid rotation, and we could do it without trading away our offense.

    Sounds like a plan. I have a feeling the new owner will want to make a splash, and will try to bring in a big name GM and a big name manager (Lou). That could be just the thing to convince free agent starters to come to Cincinnati. (That plus league-best offense.)

  2. EricTW

    I wouldn’t mind at all the Reds going after Contreras, depending on the cost. If it means Kearns of Wily Mo in the deal, no way. If the White Sox want a fringe prospect and us to take the salary on, I say do it.

  3. Ken

    Contreras has one year left on his 4-year deal. Given his success in a hitter-friendly park and the fact that NL hitters haven’t seen him much yet, we should be very interested.

    However, the Sox can negotiate from a position of strength. I’m sure plenty of other teams are also interested, given the hot market for SPs this winter. I’d consider giving up Kearns if we could get at least two years out of Contreras (and then slotting Denorfia into the lineup), but for one year it’s not worth it. I’m not sure who else we have that would entice them without hurting us too much.

  4. Ken

    I’m surprised that Jeff Weaver is still on the market, even though the other Boras SPs (Millwood, Washburn) have signed. I’d definitely take Weaver over Washburn (or Matt Morris, for that matter), and it’s close between him and Millwood. Weaver has had two solid years (220+ IP, 150+ SOs, almost 3:1 SO/BB, low 4 ERA) since departing from NY to the West coast, a la Ed Whitson. He gave up a lot of HRs last year (35), but that was an anomaly for him (19 in ’04).

    The Dodgers are reportedly not interested in bringing him back. Just maybe, the market will taper off enough for the Reds to sneak in and make a reasonable 3 year offer. I’m usually not a big fan of signing FA SPs, esp. after Milton, but there’s no other way to get better (unless they can spin a deal for Contreras). I like some of the guys on Blue’s list, but they’ll only be more expensive next year.