This morning at Fangraphs there’s an article by Dan Szymborski on the future Cincinnati Reds. While he notes that the team currently doesn’t have much talent on the big league roster and are likely to be fighting with the Pittsburgh Pirates for last place in the National League Central, that the team’s farm system is good and could help turn things around in the future. The future date that Syzmborski is looking at is the 2025 season.

With a potential lineup that has some questions in it based on the current shape of the organization – both due to the fact that much of that projected roster has never even played in the big leagues (and much of it even played in Triple-A) – Syzmborski notes that things could play out differently quite a bit. But if we assume the depth of the farm system figures itself out and there’s a solid core group of young players coming up to join Tyler Stephenson, Jonathan India, Hunter Greene, Nick Lodolo, Graham Ashcraft, and Alexis Diaz, that team – his ZiPS projections for that team is 85 wins. And by looking over that roster that he projects, almost no one on it should be making a large amount of money unless Stephenson or India go bonkers on the league the next two years and get enormous raises in arbitration because of it.

The question asked by Szymborski is would ownership, who has had both of the Castellini’s make statements over the last 16 months about money that in the game that isn’t fair for the Reds, spend money to support a contending team and try to put it over the top?

One of the big things in Major League Baseball is the collapse of the regional sports networks. Bally Sports seems to be heading towards bankruptcy and with it seems to be the league and teams losing out on a bunch of guaranteed money from those contracts. Another regional sports network has also informed teams that they can either take over the rights themselves, or they will file for bankruptcy and deal with the fall out. More than half of the teams in baseball may be on their own before the end of the first half of the season and be without a very large amount of money they had likely been counting on.

JJ Cooper of Baseball America wrote about some of that fall out yesterday. If the regional sports networks do go under MLB has a plan in place to still broadcast games to fans in their city. For the fans they won’t miss out (or at least they have the opportunity to not miss out). Teams, however, are almost guaranteed to not recoup anywhere near the same amount of money with a plan of eliminating local blackouts for and selling packages to the local fans at a higher than regular price.

But one thing that Cooper’s article focuses on is that because of the demise of the regional sports networks and the no longer guaranteed tens of, to hundreds of millions of dollars generated from the long term contracts those teams had, that being cheap and not attempting to win is going to cause ownership problems. Now, instead of a team having a $75M check arriving no matter what every season from their TV deal they signed for 20 years in 2017, they have to do something to entice local fans to pay up big time for in order to claw back some of that lost money. And if you go into the year telling your fans you’re already out of contention and are rebuilding, a lot of those fans aren’t going to be opening up their wallets and pulling out the credit card to sign up.

While there is some revenue sharing on the local television contracts (and many other revenue generating aspects of the local monies), particularly with a team like the Reds, the more they make locally the better it’s going to be for them. They are almost always going to get back more from the revenue sharing pie than they pay in.

So it comes back to the question of would ownership go out and try to add to a good, but not great roster if it appears the team is close to competing? Our guts may all say yes given what the franchise has done and said over the last 18 months in trading away anyone with any sort of contract that they could and slashing payroll to the lowest in over a decade.

If their ability to make money resides on them actually having to have fans interested in both going to a lot of games and paying a premium to watch the games, perhaps that will get them to invest some actual money back into the roster in order to try and be a real good team since fans tend to spend money and support those.

On the flip side of it, though, perhaps the lack of that guaranteed money coming in from the regional sports networks makes them skittish to spend on players because “what if things go wrong and the team isn’t good like we think?” and then the fans bail and don’t support things because the team isn’t playing well and the money doesn’t flow inward?

Hopefully fans of the Cincinnati Reds get to find out the answer to the question because at the very least it means that some things started to turn around on the field.


39 Responses

  1. David

    I think Doug hits the key to this, which is the revenue stream that ACTUALLY exists.

    As previous commenters have noted, Reds actual attendance has been in decline since 2012, because the Reds “Top Men” have not put a good team (and at times frankly lousy) on the field to meet fan expectations.
    My personal opinion is with the wave of talented young players emerging from the Reds’ Minors in 2023, 2024 and into 2025, a new window is opening. The Votto and Moustakas contracts (and Ken Griffey too!) will be “off the ledger” after 2023, and there should be money to spend.
    How much the Management Group actually does intend to spend is a mystery. They will have $30-40 Mil to spend and stay at the same approximate budget (and more could be spent), and could dramatically improve the bullpen, and get one or two good position players to fill the position holes that the Minors don’t fill.
    I, personally, don’t expect much. I expect Phil ‘n Bob to cry poverty while pocketing the income.

  2. Bdh

    “What if the Reds are good again? Will ownership spend?”

    Yes? But I hope it’s more on extensions than free agency. the early 2010s over the 2019-2021 attempt

    By late 2025 the reds could have a lineup that already looks something like the following

    C – Stephenson
    1B – Encarnacion-Strand
    2B – India
    SS – De La Cruz
    3B – Marte
    OF – Fraley, Friedl, Benson, McLain
    DH – Collier

    This doesn’t include Steer who could play all over, Arroyo who’s a top 50 prospect now + the A-Ball prospects, or a college bat they could draft this year at #7 and fit into this timeframe

    In that group Stephenson + India would be in their 2nd year of arbitration and Fraley + Friedl in their 1st. Everyone else would still be at league minimum. Not a lot of money going into what could be a loaded lineup.

    You’d still have a few years with Greene, Lodolo, and Ashcraft. Even if only 1 of Williamson, Stoudt, Phillips, Abbott, and Roa prove to be a legit major league starter then you’re only needing to find 1 starter with virtually no money being spent on the rotation

    Sign a few players (a right handed OF, a Starting pitcher, a backup catcher if one hadn’t developed) in the price range that Miley, Myers, Ludwick, Pham cost them to solidify your roster and then make sure you have a deep bullpen which I also think will fill out mostly from the inside as well

    2025 bullpen could have

    + any of the starters above who don’t make the rotation

    What I hope they don’t do is empty their farm once they are competing. Trading 3 future all stars for 2 relevant years of Latos isn’t what teams like the reds should be doing. Adding top prospects in a trade that the Dodgers were making more to offload salary isn’t what the reds should be doing either. Find the deals like the did on theSonny Gray trade with the Yankees or even the Choo trade.

    • VaRedsFan

      I agree with most of this.
      Though Fraley, Freidl, and Fairchild could take a big step forward, I still see their ceiling as a 4th OF’er on a contending team….Those spots need legit upgrades and 1 all star. Maybe 1 of the 3 can emerge…that means 2 others need to develop or be acquired.
      I disagree with your Latos trade opinion. He was a catalyst on those teams to give them a legitimate shot at a title. They chose to move Grandal over Mez. It was the right call at the time, but injuries derailed Mez’s career. Alonso was a decent hitter, but had no position with Votto signed for another 10 years. Boxberger has been a solid reliever, good teams find those types of guys everywhere.

  3. Melvin

    “What if the Reds are good again? Will ownership spend?”

    Don’t hold your breath. That’s my gut feeling.

  4. LDS

    The answer is no, the current ownership will not spend regardless of the quality of the team. But I think the best hope we have is, that since the free money is drying up, it will likely encourage the current owners to sell the team. The work of actually building a competitive team seems to be beyond both the ownership’s abilities and certainly their inclination. So, they sell, take the money, and run.

    • JoshG

      But yet this same ownership group did spend when they thought they had a chance to win

    • Votto4life

      When was the last time this team signed a player to a multiple year contract? Two or three years?

      Regardless of what the Reds’s ownership has done in the past, they have been telling us by words and deeds they are no longer going to spend what it takes to be competitive. Some people just don’t want to listen.

      • Redsvol

        for the 2020 season, they signed 3 position players to multi year deals – Shogo, Moose, and Castellanos. The 2020 season was trashed by COVId and they’ve regretted it ever since.

  5. Ken

    MLB is definitely headed for financial trouble, with teams like the Reds, Pirates and A’s dealing off their stars every year. What makes anyone think the Reds’ promising young corps will still be Reds by the time they mature into competitive big-leaguers? If we were looking at a few rebuilding seasons knowing management was strategizing to win, that would be different. But until the players association considers balancing the playing field, teams like the Reds will never be able to sustain success. Remember- MLB wants NY, LA, SD, Boston, Atlanta in the playoffs to pump up revenue.

    • VaRedsFan

      Just because the Reds aren’t doing doesn’t mean it can’t be done.
      See Rays, Tampa
      See Indians, Cleveland
      Oakland did it for years before the last few seasons.

    • Redsvol

      the NFL doesn’t seem to suffer any when Buffalo, Green Bay and the Bengals make the playoffs or superbowls… about a revenue machine. In fact, the 2 New York teams (Giants and Jets) have stunk for a very long time.

      • Dan

        The NFL has no local TV deals – only national. So as far as I know, the TV money is shared equally amongst the 32 teams.

        MLB is VERY different from that. The amount of $$ the Yankees make from the YES Network and the amount the Reds make off the Bally Sports deal (or whatever will be next) creates a HUGE imbalance.

        Now, I’m not making excuses for the Castellinis at ALL. Even with the imbalance, the Reds (and every team like them) is guaranteed at least $100 million right off the bat. (National TV money, split equally, is about $65 million per team. The smallest regional TV money deal guarantees about $30-35 million, at least based on best estimates.) That is a fact.

        BUT, it’s also true that the Yankees, Dodgers, Red Sox, Mets, Cubs, etc. bring in FAR more money than the Reds, Pirates, Rays, Guardians, etc. of the world. Mostly due to TV.

        That’s my understanding anyway. It’s a key factor, and it is not one the NFL has to deal w/ at all.

  6. redfanorbust

    IF the Reds can get good again? Well that as Doug mentioned by way of Fangraphs in this article might be 2025. Does good mean .500? Squeaking into a wild card spot? The goal for any team should be build said team that competes realistically for getting to the world series. I am tired of settling for mediocrity. Been doing that for over 30 years. Will we ever have a great team again with this ownership? Provided the core nucleus of good young talent we seem to have now pans out, how much money would it take to add to that to get a real serious contender? If ownership is not willing or able to spend that money, with or without the tv revenue money, then they should not be in the business of baseball ownership. I know because of the broken system MLB employees we will never be able to keep up with the Dodgers, Yankees etc but this would be a golden opportun time to do some real spending. Can’t imagine what would happen to the fanbase if they let the talent we have wither on the vine.

  7. MBS

    Middle of the pack spending was as good as this group would ever do, and the bottom 1/3rd is their likely home. Would love to see a forced sale of clubs that don’t spend an agreed upon % of the salary cap, and are below .500 for 3 years. It would force owners to actually spend or lose their toy.

  8. BK

    History says they will spend. As Doug points out, they will have tremendous incentive to spend. The best way to grow revenue is to “consistently” put a quality product on the field. This leads to more season ticket sales, giving the franchise greater revenue certainty while reducing risk.

    Will they spend to the satisfaction of those that frequent this website? Probably not. Fans are under no obligation to exert only reasonable demands.

    Will they spend wisely and avoid expensive contracts for middling free agents? I’m not sure. Like BDH, I would prefer extensions as a rule. I would also like them to keep sufficient resources available to pounce when the right opportunity presents itself (e.g., Cardinal’s acquisition of Nolan Arenado). Too often, they have entered seasons with little payroll flexibility. Spending wisely is better than spending more. Wins, playoff appearances, and playoff wins are the metrics to judge Ownership by.

    • AC

      My worry is that they aren’t competent enough to identify the right players, or too skittish to cover mistakes and go the extra mile. The last two “competitive windows” (12-15 and 21) are more notable for their inability to remedy one particular aspect of the team. RH bat from 12-15, and the bullpen in 21. Asking this group to both be aggressive AND smart seems at least one bridge too far, I’m afraid.

      • BK

        Thank you AC, you expressed my view much better than I did. I think Bob C. cares a lot more than he is given credit for. Unfortunately, his planning left the GM handcuffed at key points when they needed to add payroll. It’s not just payroll, either. They’ve traded away the farm in the past for short-term fixes, too. We have a good GM. We’ve had good GMs before. The CEO needs to let them do their jobs.

  9. Klugo

    Boycott these MFers until they spend.

  10. old-school

    Will they have a $200 million payroll? no
    Will they sign players over age 30 to $150 million deals over 5+ years? no
    Will they spend $145 million on payroll by 2025 and spend wisely on proven vets to fill gaps in the SP, bullpen, and positionally? hope so.
    Will they sign young team controlled players pre-arbitration to lock in a core nucleus for 5-6 years ala the braves? hope so.
    Will BC at age 82 this fall or the larger Reds ownership group or both transition principal control of the team over to Dick Williams. Hope so

  11. James

    I often wonder if the Reds got a free pass when the Bengals were bad. Now that the Bengals are very good, and exciting, there is a real chance of losing a generation of fans–and revenue–that would likely flow in if the Reds were making real efforts to win–like Cleveland, or Minnesota.

    • Bdh

      Cleveland’s payroll is only a few million more than Cincinnati’s right now. Most years Cincinnati outspends them. They’ve been very smart running that franchise and it seems to be the way Krall is trying to build up Cincinnati as well

      • James

        Teams like Cleveland, Minnesota, Milwaukee…they have up and down years, but generally, they are in the conversation. Definitely like what I’m seeing from those small market franchises and can only hope we’ll follow suit.

    • MBS

      30 years of losing has lost more than 1 generation of fans. FCC is a bigger threat to the Reds as they play in the same season, and it’s a young franchise, and exciting atmosphere. I know I’ll be attending more FCC games than Reds in 23.

  12. Oldtimer

    Different times, different days, different ways.

    But the Reds were lousy from 1945 through 1955. Then the Reds had the best record in the NL from 1956 through 1981.

    Aggressive minor league development in 1950s and 1960s and trades in the 1960s and 1970s made the Reds better in the 1960s and much better in the 1970s.

    • JB

      Except for that Frank Robinson trade. I think that still haunts us at night.

      • David

        It’s been 57 years, and Just last night I woke up in a cold sweat about Milt Pappas starting Opening Day for the Reds!
        No, just kidding. It was a bad trade in retrospect, but they had high hopes for Milt Pappas based on his previous performance with the Orioles. Shows the danger of shopping for starting pitching.
        And the Reds management at the time was thinking Frank had “peaked”.
        I guess he showed them.

    • Mike

      My father was born in 1922 and grew up with the Yankee greats. he moved to Cincinnati in the late forties. I asked him how the Reds did while he was growing up. he said that they were almost always in 7th or 8th place. (Only 8 teams per league at the time.) I left Cincinnati for graduate school, and then a teaching career, 33 yaers ago. I still am a major fan of the Bengals and the Buckeyes (I’m an OSU grad). I check the standings on the Reds, but I would follow them more closely if it appeared that winning was a higher priority. Incompetent ownership is not, however, limited to the smaller markets. The Angels owner, Arte Moreno, is one of the worst. He has wasted the talent of the best player in the game (Mike Trout), and stands an excellent chance of losing the most exciting player in the game (Shohei Ohtani) to FA after this season. Misery does not love company!

  13. Optimist

    Some interesting issues involved here.

    1 – Who will be the next managing partner, and when? If the current group is simply cleaning up the balance sheet for a transfer, does that mean more or less spending, sooner or later?

    2 – As for the current ownership, they may still be hesitant while the RSN income issue is uncertain – when will that be resolved?

    3 – Given the current playoff structure, virtually every team is “looking at a playoff window 2-3 years from now”. Old school pennant or WS contention is a different level, and requires different (MORE!) spending.

    4 – As an optimist, going back a few years, there is some foundation and long term effects building from DW’s work on the MiLB system, and Krall’s more recent transaction activity. One or two “ifs” and they could be set up nicely beyond 2025, i.e. the #7 pick this year, another waiver claim produces well, more than one of the prospects becomes an all-star and so on. Possible, somewhat improbable, but possible.

  14. TMS

    I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of money thrown at FA’s. The good FA’s, the elite ones who can actually help the Reds win a World Series, are going to sign with the teams who throw $400+ million, 10 year deals at them. That will NEVER be the Reds. The Reds could spend big money on mediocre FA’s (Like Moose), and increase payroll, but will not really help the team. Money would be better spent on keeping the young talent like Greene, Elly de la Cruz, and Marte (provided they pan out).

    Even better, use some of that money to poach executives, scouts, and coaches from some of those successful organizations (Cleveland, Los Angeles, Tampa Bay, Atlanta, etc.) who can, and have evaluated and developed quality minor league talent into quality major league talent. It’s frustrating because the Reds finally have a lot of highly touted talent in the minors, but I’m just not confident in the coaching and development to get them to the next level. We’ve seen a LOT of turnover in the minor league coaching and development, but most of the replacement s seem to be internal promotions. We need an infusion of new blood and fresh ideas that have succeeded elsewhere, instead of “rearranging the deck chairs of the Titanic.”

  15. Votto4life

    This has been my concern all along with the TV contracts.

    If the Castellinis has shown us anything, over the past couple of years, it is that they are risk averse.

    I put the odds near zero that they will invest heavily in the payroll.

    I do have hope though, that they will sell the team, sooner rather than later.

  16. Jim Delaney

    Current Reds ownership group believe they are overseeing a non profit organization. They are not going to spend. In the best interest of baseball and the franchise the current majority ownership of the Castellini’s and Williams families need to sell the team. There are many wealthy people who would care less about the bottom line and only want to win. The Padres are a small market team who has an owner who wants to win. They are spending money at the luxury limit. They are also being impacted by the regional TV deal. SD being able to spend 200M + on payroll leads me to believe Reds aren’t spending all of there profits..

  17. Ryan

    I was a big Reds fan until last year. Then I finally decided that if the team wasn’t invested in winning, I wasn’t going to be emotionally invested either. So other than vaguly following from a distance, I think I watched 2 games last year and canceled my MLB app package to even follow them from home this year. I can follow a bad team that’s trying; I can’t follow a bad team that’s content.

    • LWBlogger

      That’s about where I was at, only I watched maybe parts of 2 games.

  18. Doc

    Can anyone provide a list of maybe 10 players in the last two decades who made a huge signing of a free agent player that put them over the top?

  19. JB

    Well this will be the coming off season when we find out what really their plans are. Moose and Votto will be off the books and the payroll will be low. I expect them to sign guys that are in the 16-20 mil a year. If they go into next year in the 65-70 million payroll , then that will be what they are looking at every year. 90 tops.

  20. TR

    I will only feel secure about the Reds when the Castellini’s are no longer the controlling officer of the ownership group. My preference is the return of Dick Williams as head of the organization, or someone else so far unknown.