While the red and black confetti from the Winter Meetings is still settling, let’s take a look at where the Reds payroll stands. 


These are the players with spending commitments established in guaranteed contracts as negotiated between the player and organization. The number represents salaries plus prorated signing bonuses, in millions of dollars, rounded to the nearest tenth. The data comes from Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

The seven players under contract total $68.8 million in commitments.


Based on the league’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, players who have accumulated three years of service time are entitled to an arbitration process to determine their salary. For an individual player, this runs through the accumulation of six years of service time, after which the player can become a free agent. (There is an exception to these rules for certain players who fall into the Super Two category. They get four years of arbitration instead of three. That doesn’t affect anything in this post.) These estimates for 2019 arbitration awards come from Matt Schwartz at MLB Trade Rumors (methodology).

 The Reds have six players who have arbitration rights for the 2019 season. The estimate for their combined salaries is $29.4 million. 


Players who are short of three years service time have no control over their salary. The only constraint on the amount the team sets is the minimum established on page 11 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement governing 2017-2021. The minimum salary for a major league player in the 2019 season is $555,000, up from $545,000 in 2018. 

A full active major league roster is 25 players. Assuming the 13 players who fall under one of the two categories above, that leaves 12 covered by the league minimum. This includes players such as Luis Castillo, Scott Schebler, Cody Reed, Jesse Winker and Amir Garrett. It would also include the newest Red, Connor Joe, if he makes the team. The Reds give small raises to players who fall under league minimum more than one year. Cot’s estimates the total for 12 Reds players at $6.9 million. 


That means, as of now, the Reds have a payroll of $104.1 million.

We know the Reds will make more moves and take on additional payroll. The question is how much? Some benchmarks: The 2018 payroll was $101 million and the Reds highest to-date was $115 million in 2015. Rob Huff at MLBTR estimated yesterday the Cardinals would spend $175 million in 2019.

How much the Reds will spend this year remains shrouded in whispers and speculation. Guesstimates range from $130 million to $150+ million. 

13 Responses

  1. citizen54

    I’m not so sure I want to the Reds to commit to overpaying for a starting pitcher for 4-5 years so just they can say they spent a set amount of money in 2019. I wouldn’t mind them overpaying for someone on a short term deal though. I’d probably go with someone in Matt’s Tier 3 starters.

  2. citizen54

    I agree with you. We still don’t know if Reed or Stephenson are busts when there was ample opportunity to at least give them a decent shot. Reed looked pretty good in September aside from one start and we don’t know if Stephenson is bad or just injured. Meanwhile we had all these filler guys getting the bulk of the starts the last two years.

  3. I-71_Exile

    I’m going to go out on a very short limb and say that Stephenson is a bust. Reed looks like he might be a salvageable major league pitcher on a bad to average team. Neither are going to move the needle towards contention.

  4. Brad

    Since it’s a “signing bonus” it was paid at the time of signing, right? If so, why are you prorating it onto this year’s salary? That money is spent, gone, water under the bridge and shouldn’t be considered with this year’s payroll.

    • Brad

      Ok, that makes sense since the actual payments are prorated.

  5. Tom

    The Reds have stated they’ve wanted to break even as an organization. However, the last few years, the salaries have been low enough that the Reds should have net positive earnings. Assuming these earnings were retained and not dispersed to the owners, that means the Reds might have a carry over surplus of capital. That excess capital affects salary considerations.

    Normally, Profit P = (Revenue R – Cost- C)*Velocity-V

    But for the Reds we need to calculate player salary potential. That’s a slightly different equation.

    Salary Potential-SP= [(R – Operating Expenses X + Retained Earnings-E – Current Salaries-CS)*V] – Dividends-D

    So, for short: SP = [(R + E – X – CS)*V] – D

    Plugging in some numbers:

    SP = [(R + E – $50m – $102m)*1] – $0


    SP = [(R + E – $152m) – $0

    Does anyone know the Reds annual revenue numbers over the last several years?

    • DHud

      A lot of money has also gone into areas such as player scouting, player development, and facilities upgrades over the past 2 seasons

  6. Scott Gennett

    Those $23MM are now heavier than a cinder block,

  7. scottya

    For funzies: The one year wonder team (19′)

    ERA last year/projected

    1. Alex Wood 3.65/3.60
    2. Luis Castillo 4.30/4.01
    3. Sonny Gray 5.26/3.95
    4. Tanner Roark 4.34/4.56
    5. Anthony Desclafani 4.93/4.34

    WRC+ last year/projected

    1. Winker – LF WRC+ 128/120
    2. Puig – RF WRC+ 123/125
    3. Votto – 1B WRC+ 131/136
    4. Suarez – 3B WRC+ 135/117
    5. Gennett – 2B WRC+ 125/96
    6. Senzel – CF WRC+ AAA/110
    7. Barnhart – C WRC+ 89/86
    8. Peraza – SS WRC+ 9792

    Bench – Schebler WRC+99, W. Flores WRC+113, Kemp WRC+ 106 , Ervin WRC+ 88

    I believe this is about 132 million, hypothetically after homer goes to LA

    • scotly50

      I like Winkers’ game in the 6 slot. His OBP is good but his lack of speed negates his run scoring ability. I would include him, along with Gennett, any trade talks.

  8. alex

    Nice work Steve. I have dwindling faith in the FO and owner. The newfound desire to spend is due to the near total failure to develop starting pitching and the owner’s panicked reaction to fan apathy and Daughtery’s scathing article a few months ago.

    Signing a few 3/4 pitchers will get the team closer to fourth place. The bigger problem is the lack of drafting and development of the pitchers and the near non-existence of any real Latin players coming through the minors. To quote Marvin Lewis, I see better than I hear.

  9. roger garrett

    Adding Roark and saying so long to Billy does not make us a 80 win team even if we remain injury free. If Castillo continues to improve and another young pitcher steps up then we set ourselves up to go all in beginning in 2020.So much more money to go and fill the holes then is available now.I look at this year as a year to prepare for a long run in competing in our division.We just can’t forget the rest of our division will not come back to us especially this year and that we must first catch them.Right now today 3 of the other 4 teams just have more talent and over a 162 game season talent always plays.Patience with a plan is what the Reds need to have right now and honestly they haven’t shown either one in the last 4 years.I like the new hires in the dugout and I like what the front office is saying but taking too big of a bite in 2019 is very very risky.