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. 

29 Responses

  1. Matt Hendley

    Great work, and beating MLBTR at that.

    • Sliotar

      I am not sure there is a payroll number big enough, taking into account actually obtaining the right guys to fill the right holes, to get the Reds into contention for the division title in 2019.

      (Just don’t trade the top prospects this off-season).

      The more interesting question to me is… why the knee-jerk change in philosophy now?

      FC Cincinnati now in MLS?
      Hiring someone (Bell) that the lead owner will actually listen to (perhaps)?

      Most of the young arms the Reds rebuild was supposed to built upon have not been given the same chance as the youngsters in Atlanta and Philadelphia.

      The mismanagement of the last four seasons is preying upon the Reds now and will continue to do so for a while yet, like with Gennett still on the roster, entering into an expiring contract season.

      • 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.

      • 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.

      • Matt Hendley

        Reed was always going to be a releif pitcher… and could probably pull it off… not the settup guy but not the junker. Stevenson needs an attitude adjustment to realise that just because triple A hitters will swing at his stuff outside the zone, doesnt mean that major leaguers will. I would trade him now as a “change of scenery ” canadate before we truly find out he is a complete walking machine and we are stuck with him.

  2. 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.

  3. Hotto4Votto

    FYI, your top category says 68.8 but it’s listed as 66.8 on the total tally at the bottom. Guessing some sort of transfer error. That would make the Reds commitment $104.1m

    • Steve Mancuso

      Thanks for catching. Will fix in the morning.

  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.

    • Steve Mancuso

      Some signing bonuses are prorated. The initial contract Raisel Iglesias signed spread his bonus over several years. I don’t think it applies to anyone for the Reds right now. I’m just using Cot’s numbers.

      • 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?

    • Jim Walker

      I don’t think the revenues are known because it is a privately held company

    • 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.

      • LWBlogger2

        I think including Winker in trade talks would definitely get the attention of other GMs. This is especially true of AL teams. I wouldn’t want to undervalue him. If I were to trade him, I’d want a very good player under contract for at least 3 years coming back. I definitely wouldn’t be shopping him either. Teams would have to ask for him.

    • WVRedlegs

      It might be better to bat Suarez 5th instead of 4th.
      2018: 4th- .258/.343/.506/.849 in 303 PA’s, good for a wRC+ of 124.
      5th- .324/.402/.556/.958 in 241 PA’s, good for a wRC+ of 152.
      career: 4th- .255/.339/.476/.814 in 375 PA’s.
      5th- .266/.361/.447/.807 in 740 PA’s.
      No denying that Puig hits well in the 2 hole. Weird how Puig (RH) struggles against lefties and Schebler (LH) struggles against righties. A reverse platoon match.
      FWIW, you left off Casali from the bench. But it would only add < $1MM to your payroll, maybe 750K.

  8. WVRedlegs

    Nice work, and you already have Tanner Roark’s $$$ figured into the equation and Billy subtracted. Sure seems like a lot room between $104MM and $150MM. With that amount of room and Bailey, Scooter, Roark, Hughes, and Hernandez coming off the books after 2019 that save another $48MM.
    Theoretically there is room to bring in a Bryce Harper and make a trade for a top shelf starting pitcher this year and another top player or pitcher next year. Realistically, Harper isn’t happening for the Reds. But this budget room doesn’t preclude the Reds from making some astute moves that will cost some money.

    • Matt Hendley

      The other thing to keep in mind. The cubs are making noise that they are maxed out moneywise, the pirates (if they know whats good for them) should start rebuilding no later then the end of this season. The Cardnals are old. It could seem that a Reds rise would coincide with the downward trend of other teams.

      • WVRedlegs

        Yeah, the other side of the coin. That is the hope, though, catch them on the way up for the Reds and the way down for them. The Cubs and Red Sox seem to want to shed some payroll, but then reallocate that money elsewhere on the roster. Not to cut spending entirely. It seems these new penalties for continually exceeding the luxury tax threshold is having an effect on the big market teams. It may have an effect of continually churning up the standings in the divisions every 4 or 5 years.
        I think the Pirates are looking at their situation as having gone through a re-tooling the last couple of years and think they are ready to emerge again. Cole, McCutcheon, Harrison, Freese, Mercer and Nova gone and they brought in Dickerson, Archer, Vasquez, Kela, Musgrove and Moran. They key with Pittsburgh is what they do with Taillon. They should sign him to a deal that covers his arb. years and a couple free agent years. They probably should extend Marte also. They have a good, young rotation in Archer, Taillon, Williams, Musgrove and Kuhl. And a good, young bullpen. They just need to re-do 2B and SS, and also C, as Cervelli is a free agent next year. What worries me about Pittsburgh is that they bring in DJ LeMahieu to play 2B and they obtain a good SS somewhere. They are just a couple of players away from making some big noise.
        St. Louis is always going to re-tool. They are always a top-10 or top-12 spending team. St. Louis just needs to re-do their corner OF and backend of bullpen now and they are set. And extend Goldschmidt. St. Louis is going to do something else big, or a couple of something elses, before too long this winter. One is probably signing Zack Britton to close. The other is going to be a blockbuster trade of some sorts.
        We can only hope the Cubs regress. They haven’t done much this winter yet. Milwaukee probably doesn’t regress this year but they need to do a couple of things, but haven’t yet either.
        Hopefully the division is tight, all 5 teams beat up on each other all year and that 88-90 wins takes the division in 2019. With a couple of more good moves the Reds could find themselves right in the middle of all that. Or watch it all unfold from the division cellar.

      • Matt Hendley

        If i was Goldschmidt…i would go see how much I can get paid after this season. Another couple signings off the board and suddenly the White Soxs and padres are quietly making moves. Alonso is the Brother in law to machado? When did this happen, lol. Betting the white Soxs make a move for him. Kids love the brothers playing on the same team storylines…. (see upton, alanta). I know that anylitics cant support that, but just a theory.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

    • Old-school

      Patience with a plan is particularly important in 2019 when young players are coming back from injuries- senzel/winker/ Schebler to name a few and more data is needed on Peraza/ Disco//Reed etc.

      I’m impatient for a 2020 NL championship. #wiretowire.