The Cincinnati Reds first step of their offseason planning is to figure out what the budget is for 2022. We don’t know, and won’t really know what that number is. We’ll have a solid estimate at some point around February, but even then it’s possible the team holds some money back for a “just in case” scenario down the line later in the year.
What we can do, though, is look at the money they have on the books for 2022 and start to figure out a little bit of what they may have to do in order to get to certain places on the scale.
The Guaranteed Money
Only six players have guaranteed money on the books for the 2022 season with the Reds.
That makes up just over $68M of payroll as long as the Cincinnati front office doesn’t make any trades of those players.
The Options to be had
This is an area where the Reds have a lot wiggle room despite just three players having options for the taking.
The one that everyone talks about is Nick Castellanos – and it’s understandable. Castellanos is out there every day and he makes a difference as a middle of the order hitter. He also has the second highest salary on the team if he sticks around. Unlike the other two options, the player gets to decide on whether they are sticking around or not – so there is no buyout there.
Wade Miley seems like it should be an easy option to pick up. You can either pay him $1M to pitch somewhere else despite leading your rotation in ERA from the very beginning of the year, or you can pay him $10M to return. The old adage that you can never have enough pitching would really seem to apply here.
And then there’s Tucker Barnhart. This is the one that feels like there’s a lot of discussion around among the internet world. Barnhart, a 2-time Gold Glove winning catcher doesn’t have a lot of salary on the books, but the Reds also have someone to step into his role as the starting catcher if they don’t bring him back, too.
Who gets paid in arbitration?
MLB Trade Rumors released their projected arbitration numbers this past week for all eligible players. Here’s what they have for the Reds, sorted most to least:
Will all of these players be tendered a contract? That’s tough to say. Amir Garrett feels like the one with the best chance to be non-tendered. The reliever had what was the worst season of his career. He had been coming off of back-to-back above-average seasons, but in 2021 seemingly little went right for any long period of time for Garrett.
It is worth noting here that teams must tender or non-tender a player by December 1st. Players that are tendered a contract will either need to come to terms to a deal with the team or head to arbitration in February where a salary for the upcoming season will be determined for them. Players who are tendered a contract, but cut in the second half of spring training are only owed 45 days worth of their pay rather than the full amount of their deal (this is for players that have been tendered a deal, not those on free agent deals). This is what happened with Noé Ramirez last spring and the Reds only had to pay him roughly $245,000.
Guessing at what happens
There are plenty of scenarios that could happen, but let’s look at the scenarios that seem most likely to happen.
Nick Castellanos opts out, Barnhart is bought out, Garrett is non-tendered
This is the scenario that saves the most money that is also most likely. We don’t know what the MLB minimum salary will be for the 2022 season as that’s a part of the collective bargaining agreement that is not yet agreed upon. For these purposes we decided to give a small bump up from $570,500 to $580,000 per season. Everyone but Garrett is tendered a contract and we assumed that MLB Trade Rumors arbitration numbers are the deals that get made. In this scenario the Reds would have a roster, with no outside additions or exits from the organization at $114,780,000.
Nick Castellanos opts out, Barnhart is picked up, Garrett tendered
In this scenario, which still seems to be plausible, the Reds budget to begin the offseason would be at $123,320,000. Depending on where you look, opening day payroll for 2021 was between $119-124,000,000.
Nick Castellanos opts in, and the Reds go crazy
While it feels unlikely that Nick Castellanos will stick around for 2-years and $32,000,000 instead of test free agency, it’s certainly possible that he would. If he returns, perhaps that leads the Reds ownership to give it all one last hurrah and bring back Barnhart and Garrett and see what happens. In that scenario the Reds would be on the hook for $137,580,000 with no outside additions.
What should we expect?
Even in the “best case” scenario when it comes to the lowest payroll, it would seem that the there’s not much room at all for additions of any consequence unless the Reds were to raise their payroll from where it was in 2021. That seems unlikely given that ownership seems to claim they try to break even and through no fault of their own, attendance was down compared to where it was in 2019 – which leaves them with less money to spend and in theory, the *need* to make up for some loss of cash after both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
The next six weeks will tell us where things fall. Option decisions must be made within 5 days of the end of the World Series. The non-tender date is December 1st.