It’s the middle of December and the Cincinnati Reds 40-man roster is nowhere near full. It’s not surprising that is the case, though – free agency and non-tenders have lowered the number of players on rosters all around baseball. The free agency market over the last few years has been about as fast as your grandma running a marathon, which is to say, it’s been incredibly slow.

The Reds 40-man roster currently sits at 31 players, which leaves them with nine spots to fill up. And realistically, the team could ultimately add 10 players if they’d like – one will just need to wait a while – because one player on the 40-man roster, Jared Solomon, underwent Tommy John surgery this offseason and can be placed on the 45/60 day injured list once that become an option closer to the start of the regular season.

Whether that final number winds up being seven, eight, nine, or ten players – the Cincinnati Reds have a lot of spots to fill on the 40-man roster. Not every spot will necessarily be filled, but it’s tough to imagine a team heading into the regular season with a 40-man roster that has fewer than 38 players on it. It’s just something of a rarity for a team to operate at a number lower than that.

Something that tends to happen near the end of spring training every year is that teams will pick up players on waivers that other teams let go of to make room on their own roster for someone who earned a spot through their spring training performance. It’s hard to project how many of those additions could happen.

With free agency, as noted above, things have been slow. Very slow. Over the last five years we’ve watched Major League teams play the waiting game on free agency, pushing things closer and closer to spring training before even making offers to non-star level players in an effort to try and suppress the market value of player deals. But even if the team were looking for free agent help, the Reds don’t seem to be in position to try and fill out the 40-man roster with those types of moves.

The obvious spots where Cincinnati can use free agency to bolster the number of players on the roster is the pitching staff and the shortstop position. There are currently 17 pitchers on the 40-man roster, including Solomon who won’t be available for most of, if not all of the 2021 season. There are two-and-a-half catchers on the roster, with Tucker Barnhart and Tyler Stephenson counting as the two, and Kyle Farmer counting as the half.

On the infield it feels pretty safe to assume that the Reds are going to add a shortstop. They currently only have six infielders on the 40-man roster, and that includes the previously mentioned Kyle Farmer. It feels safe to assume they won’t carry Jose Garcia on the active roster unless he’s going to be used as a starter. That would leave Joey Votto, Mike Moustakas, whoever the starting shortstop happens to be, and Eugenio Suárez as the starting four, and then Kyle Farmer and Alex Blandino as potential bench options (both have options remaining).

The outfield is crowded on the big league roster when it comes to starters. Who is the 5th and 6th outfielder between Mark Payton and Aristides Aquino doesn’t matter a whole lot as with the current set up – if everyone is healthy – the 5th option won’t get much playing time.

The rotation, which is missing multiple starters from the 2020 team, could likely use an addition. The bullpen could also some depth added to it, especially given that it’s possible that two of the guys from the 2020 bullpen could wind up in the rotation. Over the last few seasons the Reds, and most other teams, had more pitchers on the 40-man roster than position players. To get back to that ratio, assuming a full roster, the team would need to add four pitchers while also not subtracting any pitchers.

Options for the non-pitchers, and non-starting shortstop seem to be a viable 3rd catcher who could be counted on if Barnhart or Stephenson were to head to the injured list or a “super sub” type of player who can play some infield and outfield.

When it comes to the big league roster, the Reds need to add a few pitchers – whether that’s for the rotation or the bullpen depends on how they feel about rounding out the rotation with internal options – and a starting shortstop at the very least. But the team also has some depth issues on the 40-man roster that they need to take care of. The depth issue is something that likely won’t be addressed soon as the backup market is usually the last to be tackled and tends to happen leading into the weeks before spring training, not the months before spring training.

Nick Krall has his work cut out for him. It seems he’s gotten a directive from ownership that there’s not any money to spend, and it’s led to moves that have been made to save money rather than try to improve the team (teams trying to improve, for example, don’t let go of players like Archie Bradley). He is being tasked with trying to fill out the big league pitching staff and find a starting shortstop, but he’s also going to need to go out and sign a handful of players to provide some depth for injuries that are almost assuredly going to happen in 2021.

32 Responses

  1. RedsFan11

    While the optimist in me hopes the Reds sign a solid FA SS, the realist in me sees it now… “Reds re-sign Galvis for 2 years $8mil”…

    • Shane

      Sonny Gray for trevor story and minor league prospect

      • That that had had

        Sonny Gray for Bo Bichette. No thank you on Lindor or Story.

        I prefer Gray not be traded, but if he is I don’t want a one year rental in return.

      • Swayback8

        Bad return for for best trade chip. FO will not resign him after 1yr.

  2. Bred

    Although it is none of my business, I’d like to know how much money they lost when looking at only revenue vs cost not considering lost income that was not received.

    • Stock

      if the Reds were truly break even then you would think that all things even out except the gate. Assume the Reds make $40 million a year in gate receipts. That amounts to $500,000 a home game. Over 60 games (30 home games) that amounts to $15 million. subtract from that the draft savings but add to that the expanded roster. Subtract savings in non-employee payroll and you are still in the $10 – $15 million range. This assumes they were truly break even.

      However, even if they were this does not account for the incredible growth in equity the Reds have created Bob since buying the team. I think it is conservative to say the value of the Reds has tripled since the purchase. No bank would have a problem floating Bob a $15 million loan and letting him pay it back over 40 years.

      Additionally, Bob was supposedly breaking even in payroll in 2014 and 2015. Payroll dropped considerably in 2016 and Bob should have banked about $60 million in profit from 2016 – 2018. factor in the $8 million hit in annual attendance and Bob is still up $35 million from 2016 – 2018.

      Of course Bob has already banked this money so it doesn’t count.

      • KetteringRedsFan

        (1) No bank in -any- frame of mind would extend Bob a loan on the terms you propose…….and, if any did, there would be pushback from the MLB office. They really do not like teams taking out loans to cover operations.

        (2) If you haven’t noticed, interest rates have collapsed since Bob and C. bought the team and, as a consequence, asset prices everywhere have blown up out of proportion to the underlying performance of aid asset. True for stocks, true for bonds, true for real estate, true for sports franchises.

        “Asset price” = cash flow/interest rate. (It’s really not that simple – not at all – but it’s the basic bond pricing mdel and it will serve as an example. When interest rates are at century lows, a small drop in the interest rate will lead to a -massive- increase in the asset price. Unfortunately, this means the reverse is also true. If/when interest rates pick up (and, at these low rates, it might not take a every significant uptick), the paper asset value is going to be diminished significantly.

        (3) Now the above is an oversimplification – on one hand, there are fixed assets that put a bottom floor on valuation and, on the other, “asset price” is what someone will pay – nothing more, nothing less. This is obscured by the lack of an active, continuous market in franchises and that other factor – owner egos – but they all do go through the same calculations.

        You also assume that a lot of that cash you covet hasnt already been committed to other non-payroll activities, up to and including servicing (and hopefully refinancing) any debt incurred at purchase and/or for improvements to facilities. This was covered fairly intensively in a prior thread.

        Would I like to see more investment in payroll? Sure. For the most part, we all would like to see the Reds in a more competitive posture in the talent market. But financial realities are whatever they are, not what we would like to be. It’s still a business first and you need to think that way first – otherwise nothing you do will endure..

        Sorry. Apologies, etc for going off on a screed. But it’s become too easy for some here to think that Bob has a mystery bank account that he’s sitting on. It may not be so.

      • dennis perper

        The ownership group will make a gigantic amount of money when they sell the franchise no matter how you spin it.They could sign $100 million more in free agent salaries,win for the fans and still make huge $ when they sell, plus all the new gate $ they will get by competing.The poor owners argument is a bunch of baloney.Look up the Reds current estimated value vs what they paid for the team.Ill take out my violin.

      • KetteringRedsFan

        Responding to Dennis: I understand the frustration. Believe me, I do.

        But you are missing the point. The current value placed on the franchise is a -paper- value. It’s -not- cash and it’s also not easily accessible collateral to finance a payroll surge. It’s basically locked up until and unless current management chooses to sell. Until then, it’s merely a gleam in an accountant’s eye. It’s not in Bob’s vault where he can do a Scrooge McDuck money bath every night.

        Paper values are just that – hypothetical – And there is no guarantee that they will stay this high. In fact, the argument can be made that, if interest rates start back up, the bubble will burst and -all- sports franchises will see diminished -paper- value. Estimated values are interest rate sensitive and all have been inflated massively by a continuous decline in rates to century lows – a good part of the Reds appreciation is tied to this and not to management – good or bad – and, yes, there have been things to criticize.

        Plus MLB takes a distinct dislike to clubs borrowing to finance operating/payroll surges. They are -very- conservative in this regard – partly because they don’t want the MLB brand tarnished by the sight of a club going bankrupt or forced into sale after a spending spree, partly because this is a way to keep the smaller clubs competitive against the heft of the true big market clubs. If you think the Yankees or Dodgers or Cubs have a bigger checkbook now, you haven’t seen anything if -they- are allowed to lever up. Then what happens to the price of free agent talent? The usual MLB response to clubs that want to spend up is to ask them to call on their partners/backers for an additional cash injection, not to tolerate direct borrowing. In the current business climate and especially for small to mid-market clubs like the Reds, the partners (including Big Bob) might not be in position to inject additional cash – what they have may be tied up in saving their own businesses.

        None of this is intended as a defense of MLB ownership. As a collective, they are, for the most part, overly conservative and short-term in their orientation. They -do- find creative ways to detract from the value of their branding and long-term development is a space that only a few have truly been able to manage (and it’s a lot easier when you have a big market and a titanically big checkbook).

        There is no magic money pot. That’s business reality speaking.. I would love to see more investment by the Reds. Including, but not limited to, player payroll. But before that, maybe we have to learn how to spend smarter than we have in the past because we aren’t going to win a wallet race solely with the wallet. Be Like Tampa. If they can do it on a limited budget, then we, with less limit, should be able to do at least as well. It’s as much a question of philosophy and discipline as it is of wallet.

        And, finally, I’m amused that many of the names here (not directed at you, BTW) can, on one hand, deride the large signings we’ve made as not being value for money and then reverse field and demand we do even more of the same in the free agent market. Consistency, guys, consistency………

      • dennis perper

        This is responding to ketterings reply:

        “In fact, the argument can be made that, if interest rates start back up, the bubble will burst and -all- sports franchises will see diminished -paper- value.”
        When was the last sports franchise sold for less than the seller paid?
        Even at the lowest level of any sport, teams are always sold for a profit.In the case of MLB,NFL,NBA level franchises are sold for huge profits.L.A. Clippers 2billion/ NY Mets etc.

        “It’s -not- cash and it’s also not easily accessible collateral to finance a payroll surge.”
        You really think BobC would have any trouble finding funding?He could self fund any new expenses if need be.He’s got the dough.
        He really should spend or sell.Have no sorrow for poor Bob.
        Please youre being too accountant like in your summary.This is sports, not the real world.The financial mentality you are presenting is not the reality of sports franchises.These billionaire owners are in it for the prestige and fun.None of them NEED the money.

  3. Sliotar

    Doug wrote: … “teams trying to improve, for example, don’t let go of players like Archie Bradley.”

    Truly, IMO, we are reaching Dead Horse.GIF status with Archie Bradley around here.
    Not far from the “how can the Reds live without Scooter Gennett” stage of hyperbole.

    That guy isn’t/wasn’t/won’t be the difference on whether or not the Reds contend in the NL Central … especially at a projection of more than $4 million.

    Most teams show signs of belt-tightening … are they all not trying to improve?

    The only narrative worse is … “Sign him, to maybe trade him later. Reds are shortsighted and cheap.”

    Bradley will get a job somewhere … maybe a multi-year deal.

    Maybe if the Reds did not have so much money tied up in unmovable assets (Moustakas, Akiyama, even Votto with no-trade) … they would not have had to cut bullpen guys.

    But, they aren’t a big loss. At all.

  4. Rut

    The answer to the title question is “the dumpster”.

  5. Stock

    1. Sign Didi, Chris Archer, Ryan Tepera, Nick Tropeano and Archie Bradley.

    Based upon the Wisler signing these 5 players should cost about $25 million. Based upon the Smyly signing much more.

    2. Trade Gray for a bunch of prospects.

    3. if the Reds have a competitive team in July add pieces as necessary. If not have a fire sale. Trade Suarez, Winker, Moustakas and whomever else has value and get 4+ top 100 prospects and a lot of 100-250 prospects.

    • Matthew ONeal

      I like the idea of Didi, Tropeano, and Tepera.
      I could pass on Archer, and part of me believes the Reds saw something with Bradley that led to his non tendering. I don’t think he’ll be back.

    • KetteringRedsFan

      Bring the “Arsenal Rule” into play.

      For years, it was Arsenal FC policy to -not- give extended term contracts to -any- player above 30 years of age. One year extensions based on performance were OK but, with very rare exceptions, -no- multi-year deals. They’ve gotten away from that and it has not helped them in their post-Wehnger struggles.

      Again, note the similarity to a certain Florida based clubs current strategy.

      Be Like Tampa.

  6. Old Big Ed

    Kettering, I’ve found it is a waste of time trying to explain valuation issues to sports fans. You are generally correct, however, on the merits.

    One thing that most people miss is that somewhere around 25-30% of the Forbes estimate of the Reds’ value is wrapped up in the teams’ share of MLB’s investment returns. The MLB fund includes the profits on the sale of the Nats to the Lerner family, and some amounts left from their video streaming businesses. The equity in the baseball-as-enterprise per Forbes was about $600 million, and there is no telling what it is now, post Covid.

    • KetteringRedsFan

      Yeah, I know…….but I still feel compelled to -try-. And, frankly, it’s not a whole lot different than trying to explain things to the C-suite…or to politicos…or to deep science/tech types. But I still feel compelled Someday, the horse will learn to sing, I suppose.

      I suppose, if I wanted to hold out the false candle of optimism, I’d propose the argument that one of the key facets of any upcoming CBA settlement will be the agreement to finally expand to 32. It’s a win/win, after all, : more jobs for the boys, a chance to resuscitate some minor league teams that lost out in the restructure, and, best of all, the current 30 get to feed at the trough of expansion fees – I could easily see a collective $1B pie to feast upon. On the gripping hand, (a) are you willing to wait until 2024 for your share of the windfall and (b) what makes you think that you’re going to use the money more wisely than your 29 competing rivals.

      (b) is -the- question.

      • David

        Thanks for your illuminating explanation above. I have read similar things elsewhere, and it always reminds me that most people really don’t understand or want to understand why sports franchises, in general, do what they do (financially).
        “On the gripping hand”….What would Larry Niven say?

      • Andy

        I thank you for adding business reason to the discussion. I wish I understood as well as you seem to. I challenge Doug to allow you to post an article on this… we need a counterpoint to his usual argument that the Reds can spend whatever they want because Bob will make $ when he sells the team.

        I’m frankly worried about future valuation of the Reds… MLB in general is losing millions of fans due to lack of in-market streaming options. Disney stock just spiked on news of streaming content; meanwhile YouTube and Hulu dropped all of Sinclair’s RSN’s. I paid for Hulu to watch Reds last year, I will not subscribe to cable again, ever.

      • John C.

        How about The Mote in God’s Eye?

  7. LDS

    Just another year like most years in Reds land. Maybe they’ll surprise us all with some serious action but I’m not betting on it. The companies I’ve worked for in my career took advantage of down times to double down on product development. MLB generally, and the Reds specifically, don’t seem to have such a product mindset. So while I’d like to be surprised, I’m not expecting it. A Galvis re-signing may be the best we can hope for.

  8. Klugo

    Nick Krall might be in over his head.

  9. MBS

    I don’t know if trading away assets this season makes sense. Right now teams are looking to reduce payrolls with the uncertainty of a 21 season. The Reds might be better off keeping Big League assets until the trade deadline, once the season future is well understood. Also, if the bats show up to anywhere close to what we expected last season, we might be in a run for the playoffs. Rebuild if necessary at the trade deadline Bob.

  10. MBS

    Hoffman and Santillan, without any signings would be my 2 added to your pen.

    Senzel should not be the opening day CF, Akiyama should, and Aquino should be the 4th.

    Senzel should be a utility man.

    SS is the only “problem” position remaining. If the Reds remain cheep, then it will be Rodriguez, and if they want to win Didi, and if they want to surprise the world, Lindor.

  11. Linda Kent

    Looking at the Minors with all the time they have had to prepare…. looks like Heatherly is a possibility.. Don’t count out all the Minors !

  12. Rednat

    if attendance is capped at 10 k/game then what is the motivation for ownership to go out and spend a lot of money? this team is good enough to attract 10 k a game easily. plus, i think there are enough fans itching to get back into the stadium that you could put the bad news bears out there and fans will come. these next couple of years are pretty good times to start a rebuild to be honest

  13. dennis perper

    How bout to try to win for a change?

    • west larry

      you are right. The long suffering fans deserve a team that’s a contender. It seems we may have enough of a team to compete in the central IF are hitters go back to hitting like they did in 2019. That’s a possibility-a lot of players arounf the league had awful seasons in that covid infected year. That’s my glass half full outlook.

    • KetteringRedsFan

      I suspect that they did try to win last year.

      They tried. They simply didn’t always try the right things and then, when they did do right things, they got blindsided by the bug. (Success is mostly effort, but part luck after all.)

      Now, if they still want to win, they are going to have to learn, adapt and try some -different- things. After all, the very definition of insanity is to try the same things over and over in the expectation of a different outcome.

      The Reds need to be agile. Experiment, measure, adapt or reject and not expect to get everything right the first time. Success takes -persistence- as well as resources.

      Now we see what, if anything, they’ve learned and whether they can adapt. Time will tell. A lot of what we saw last year is typical of a rigid organization being forced to undertake radical change (i.e. analytics vs old school). In the beginning, while the desire to adapt may be sincere, through lack of experience and confidence, there is an initial tendency to follow the new rule set equally rigidly and mechanically. Thus, you saw a team built by numbers that produced boring three-outcome baseball and could be predictably played against.. They also tried to spend their way over a gap in their development pipeline, a conventional response.

      Long term, there are two choices. (a) Try to cover the gap and end up looking like the Phillies or (b) Be Like Tampa – who do what they do because they can’t afford to “cover the gap”.

      • AVinVA

        Be like Tampa (minus playing half of your games in Montreal)! If I was the owner I would move in this direction. His hands are no longer tied to old relationships tied to ownership or the Cardinals. It’s a more sustainable business model for Cincinnati. But they will need to acquire the front office and player development experience and knowledge to run their operations this way. It would also make you feel a little more confident in terms of what they get back in trades when they have to trade players like Gray.

  14. Steve Schoenbaechler

    Alright. First, we can’t just hang out heads on our team. Every team has gone through what we did. I believe the FA’s out there are simply looking to bide their time to see what they can get.

    I believe the ones we let go were, though minimal, a salary dump. Maybe trying to make some room for Lindor or Story.

    I have no problem trading for either one, or another proven commodity. But:

    1) We can’t let go too much of our future, so I believe that makes prospects scarce. and. . .
    2) I believe in trading from your strength. If anything, that’s OF.

    I have no problem letting Senzel go, honestly. Too much of an injury history. I don’t know what team will take him, though.

    Some talk about trading Gray. Again, it would all depend upon who we get back. I wouldn’t like that trade though. Losing both Gray and Bauer in the same year? Our starting pitching is going to take a hit. I believe it would immediately become a weakness.

    Relievers are always a shot in the dark. You do the best you can and simply hope, nothing more. No reason to spend megaloads on relievers. Maybe the closer, that would be it.

    Because of money, that’s why I’m still high on that Korean SS.