From the Enquirer:

But the guess here is that the Reds aren’t going to do a lot more as far as free agents are concerned. The club is keeping its player payroll a secret, but I’d be stunned if it reaches $80 million.

Reds CEO Bob Castellini says the new ownership budgets to break even. I’m no accountant, but if the Reds broke even with a payroll that was $60.9 million for the 25-man roster at the start of the 2006 season, they’re not going to go to $80 million in ’07 and break even. That’s despite the added money from a new television contract and a bump in ticket prices.

Krivsky wouldn’t talk about the payroll or free-agency plans Saturday.

With the insane deals being handed out in free agency, it means the Reds are going to have to make a few smart signings and build from within. That means having good drafts and waiting for that fruit to ripen in the system.

In other words, it’s going to be very difficult for this team, which IMO is worse than it was at the beginning of last season, is going to have a very difficult time competing in 2007. Especially if you believe what Fay says, that they’re basically done in free agency.

The Reds also have two big-ticket arbitration-eligible players in Aaron Harang and Kyle Lohse. Harang made $2.35 million last year. He led the National League in strikeouts and complete games and tied for the lead in wins.

The way arbitration works, he could ask for the moon and the Reds would be forced to counter with a slightly smaller celestial body.

Lohse made $3.95 million last year. He didn’t have the kind of year Harang did. But with arbitration, there are no losers. And Lohse is in his third year of arbitration.

David Ross is also eligible. He made only $500,000 last year, but with the year he had, he’ll be up to a million easily.

So say Harang gets $8 million, Lohse $6 million and Ross $1 million. That puts the Reds at $67 million, and they still have 11 roster spots to fill.

Saying Lohse didn’t have the kind of year Harang did is a small understatement (sarcasm intended). If I were the Reds, I’d be very tempted to non-tender Lohse. I just don’t believe he’s worth $6M a year. He was good at times, bad at times and to me, that’s just not worth $6M a year.

The rest of the roster will be filled with guys making $400,000 or less, but they’re probably not going to push the payroll north of $70 million.

I think the budget will be closer to $70M than it will be $80M, but believe they’ll be a little above the $70M number that Fay uses.

Krivsky guards what he’s doing as if it’s a state secret. But he did say the Reds probably will add a right-handed bat.

Hatteberg rarely started at first base against left-handers last season. Someone like Eduardo Perez, who made $1.75 million, would be a fit. Shea Hillenbrand would make sense as well. The fact that he plays third base also makes him very attractive, but he made $5.8 million last season.

Craig Wilson is also out there. He could be cheaper after he struggled in the second half.

I don’t see them signing a part time player for about $6M or so. But there is no doubt, this team needs help offensively.

As I mentioned above, I’d be stunned if the Reds went to an $80 million payroll. But Castellini is so competitive that after watching the Houston Astros sign Carlos Lee for $100 million over six years and the Chicago Cubs sign Alfonzo Soriano for $136 million over eight years, he might decide to do something drastic.

I hope so, but I’ll believe it when I see it.