In Mark Sheldon’s Tuesday Notes, Dusty talked about trying to get Mike Costanzo a start, to help break out of the “slump.” Setting aside whether Costanzo’s 1-for-13 Major League debut is a slump or his true level, Dusty’s comments cut to the heart of the problem with the roster Walt Jocketty assembled: It’s thin, thin, thin.

“That job is usually for older, veteran players that have some track record of success, where 0-for-1 doesn’t drive you crazy until the next 0-for-1,” Baker said. “The absolute best one I’ve seen was the Diamondbacks a few years ago, when they had [Danny] Bautista or [David] Dellucci. You had to choose which one you would face. Then when you get by those two, they had [Erubiel] Durazo and [Greg] Colbrunn.

“That was a hell of a combo. I was in that division trying to figure out which one I wanted to face. And all of them could hit. I was like, ‘I hate this decision.’ That’s a manager’s delight. But those combos are hard to find, and also hard to afford, too.”

Is a good bench too expensive for the Reds’ budget? My thought was that guys like Dellucci and Durazo come cheap – you just have to be fairly aggressive in signing, and pick the right ones. But I checked the 20012002 Diamondbacks – Dusty’s model of a great-hitting bench – to see.

Over the two seasons that those four guys were on the roster, the D-Backs won 190 games, two NLW pennants and the 2001 World Series. A large percentage of that was thanks to Randy Johnson, a failed video game developer, and a crew of uh, strangely late-peaking power hitters.

And, as Dusty noted, a great bench (numbers are their 2001, 2002 OPS+):

  • Bautista: 95, 117
  • Colbrunn: 115, 148
  • Delluci: 105, 83
  • Durazo: 124, 136

So each season, the D-Backs had 3 bench bats who were significantly above average, plus a fourth guy having a decent year. Two lefties, two righties.

But Dusty noted — and Jocketty would certainly tell us — production like that costs money. The D-Backs were definitely a high-payroll club (#8 2001; #3 2002), but was the bench expensive?

  • Durazo was home-grown, and only made $260,000 and $375,000.
  • Delluci arrived via the expansion draft, and was also cheap: $325k and $775k.
  • Colbrunn was a journeyman vet, signed by Phoenix before the 1999 season but made less than the league average: $1.6M and $1.8M.
  • Bautista came via trade for the immortal Andy Fox. He made $675k in 2001, then re-signed with Phoenix as a free agent for $2M.

That’s $2.86M in 2001, and $4.95M for 2002.

The 2012 Reds’ payroll is pretty comparable to the D-Backs from a decade ago – just over $81M. Obviously, the market is somewhat higher ($81M doesn’t buy what it used to) but the Reds’ system has done a good job at producing low-cost talent. Rolen and Phillips are the only regulars who aren’t home grown (and BP may as well be). The system even produced two solid bench bats, who cost essentially nothing: Frazier (132 OPS+ so far) and Mesoraco (85 OPS+). That matches the production and cost of Durazo and Delluci, so Walt only had two PH spots to fill, and had several million to do it.

The Reds simply misallocated their resources, spending their bench budget on a chorus of identical Judy-hitting middle infielders, instead of legitimate bats.

  • Miguel Cairo: $1M
  • Wilson Valdez: $930k
  • Paul Janish: $800k (not sure if this is really paid, when he’s in AAA)
  • Willie Harris: $800k

Total: $3.53M

When you add in Ludwick’s $2.0M, you have a quite significant amount of discretionary/bench money, which has produced nearly zilch.

  • Cairo: 15 OPS+ (Yes, fifteen.)
  • Valdez: 6 OPS+ (Yes, six.)
  • Janish: DNP
  • Harris: -25 OPS+ (I didn’t know it went below zero.)
  • Ludwick: 88 OPS+

While it’s easy to see how lousy the Reds’ bench is, what’s harder is finding alternatives. Anyone know of a cheap left-handed masher in AAA? Is Matt Stairs still playing somewhere?