An Early Look at the 2020 Reds Baseline Roster and Payroll

The Reds 2019 Opening Day payroll was approximately $127 million. That represented a $25 million increase over 2018 payroll and a $37 million increase over 2016.

Since then, the club has released (Matt Kemp, Zach Duke, David Hernandez, Jared Hughes) and traded (Tanner Roark, Yasiel Puig, Scooter Gennett) many of those initial players. They also acquired by trade (Trevor Bauer) and picked up a couple players (Freddy Galvis, Kevin Gausman) who had been released. Several important current team members have been promoted from the minor leagues (Nick Senzel, Josh VanMater, Aristides Aquino, Lucas Sims, Phillip Ervin). That’s a massive turnover with salary implications for 2020.

So let’s take an early look at where Reds payroll is headed in 2020 and see how much room they’ll have to make additional deals to improve the team this offseason. We’ll start by establishing a Baseline Roster and Payroll.

Baseline Roster

In 2020, Major League active rosters expand from 25 to 26. Let’s assume the Reds divide that evenly between pitchers and position players and create a Baseline Roster. It’s a best-estimate of what the 2020 Opening Day roster would look like if there were no trades or free agent (including Jose Iglesias and Alex Wood) signings. It will let us generate a starting point for payroll.

  • Catcher: Tucker Barnhart
  • Infield: Joey Votto, Josh VanMeter, Freddy Galvis, Eugenio Suarez
  • Outfield: Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, Aristides Aquino
  • Bench: Kyle Farmer, Derek Dietrich, Phillip Ervin, Curt Casali, Jose Peraza/Alex Blandino
  • Starters: Sonny Gray, Luis Castillo, Trevor Bauer, Anthony DeSclafani, Tyler Mahle
  • Relievers: Raisel Iglesias, Amir Garrett, Michael Lorenzen, Lucas Sims, Robert Stephenson, Cody Reed, Kevin Gausman, League Minimum

To be clear, this isn’t necessarily a bare bones roster. It includes Freddy Galvis and Kevin Gausman. It assumes the Reds would choose between Pereza and Blandino for the right-handed utility infielder. The eighth member of the bullpen would be a league-minimum salaried player such as Joel Kuhnel, Sal Romano, Jimmy Herget or Wandy Peralta.

Baseline Payroll

So how much will the Baseline Roster cost?

Contract Players

Let’s start with Reds players who have contracts for 2020. For these five, the team is on the hook for their entire salaries, regardless of whether the players are cut, injured or make the team. The chart shows the 2019 and 2020 salaries. These numbers are set.

Freddy Galvis also has a contract that sets his 2020 salary and the Reds have an option. When the Reds claimed Galvis off waivers, they assumed his contract as well. Based on the deal Galvis negotiated with the Toronto Blue Jays, he will earn $5.5 million if he makes the Reds Opening Day roster or $1 million buyout if he doesn’t.

Arbitration Players

Players who have three or more years of Major League service time, but fewer than six years, have earned the right to arbitration if they can’t reach an agreement on salary with the club. A few players with two-plus years of service time earn the right to an extra, early year of arbitration. They are called Super Two players. Bauer, Gausman and Dietrich are in that category and will be in their fourth year of arbitration in 2020.

The numbers in the “2020 Salary” column are a rough guess. Those salaries will be negotiated next winter and likely won’t be known until February 2020.

Kevin Gausman presents an unusual case. He’s been through 3 years of arbitration as a starting pitcher and because Gausman had nice years with the Orioles, his salary has crept up. But the Reds have used Gausman in the bullpen. Reds broadcasters have discussed Gausman maybe moving to the rotation. I don’t see that. He would be much more expensive compared to Tyler Mahle or even Anthony DeSclafani and it’s hard to see Gausman being a better pitcher than either of those other two.

At Gausman’s current salary, he would be too expensive for the bullpen. Would his salary get reduced in arbitration if Gausman is given a new role? Players seldom take cuts in arbitration from one year to the next and in any case it’s limited by contract to 20%. If the alternative was being non-tendered (cut), Gausman could make a deal with the Reds outside the arbitration system for a lower salary. We’ll leave him on our Baseline Roster for now, but he might not make it. If the Reds non-tender Gausman, they don’t owe him anything because unlike Galvis, he doesn’t have a contract.

Regarding the final utility slot: Jose Peraza would be eligible for his second year of arbitration. He made $2.775 million this year. Alex Blandino would be paid league minimum.

Pre-Arbitration Players

The Reds have many players who will make the Opening Day roster who won’t have enough service time to qualify for arbitration. Players in that situation have their salaries set entirely by the team. That usually means league minimum or close to it. Based on the current collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that runs through the 2021 season, league minimum will be around $570,000. Players who have been paid the minimum a year or two are typically given small raises.

The Baseline Roster Reds players in this category are:

  • Aristides Aquino
  • Luis Castillo
  • Phillip Ervin
  • Kyle Farmer
  • Amir Garrett
  • Tyler Mahle
  • Cody Reed
  • Nick Senzel
  • Lucas Sims
  • Robert Stephenson
  • Josh VanMeter
  • Jesse Winker

Early Bottom Line Estimate

Keep in mind the 2020 arbitration numbers we’re using are estimates and approximate and the Reds have decisions to make on Gausman, Galvis and Peraza.

This projection of payroll for our Baseline Roster is $113-4 million. That payroll fills the entire 26-man active roster with known Reds players. It assumes regular arbitration raises and current contract commitments. Without Gausman, Galvis and Peraza, the number falls to $95-97 million.

If the Reds plan to boost payroll in 2020, say up to $130-135 million, the front office would have $20-$40 million to spend above the Baseline Roster. That’s a healthy amount.

With that context, how should the Reds spend the extra money?

Steve Mancuso

Steve Mancuso is a lifelong Reds fan who grew up during the Big Red Machine era. He’s been writing about the Reds for more than ten years. Steve’s fondest memories about the Reds include attending a couple 1975 World Series games, being at Homer Bailey’s second no-hitter and going nuts for Jay Bruce at Clinchmas. Steve was also at all three games of the 2012 NLDS, but it’s too soon to talk about that.

9 Responses

  1. Jojo says:

    2yr 16 mil on Alex wood. 3 years 50 mil DiDi gregorious. The last 5 mil on a bullpen arm

  2. Mike Bittenbender says:

    Wow great work on that. Would love to see them make a run at Lindor but wonder what the ask would be from Cle. Not sure if we have pieces to get a player from LA like Seager. Is there a bat upgrade out there at C? Thanks for the great analysis

  3. R Smith says:

    Raid the Brewers. 2 year deals for moustakis and Grandal as a bridge to Stephenson and India. A mid rotation lefty at 10 million AAV.
    A good lefty bullpen arm.

  4. Blake says:

    Sign a reliever that gets lefty’s out. Need somebody other than Amir.

    I’d like a shortstop, maybe Didi? Don’t love him though with his age and probable price tag. And the fact that he’s only had one really good season

    Maybe trade Greene, India, etc. for a stud like Lindor, don’t know if that’s even possible.
    But they seem all in for 2020 and if you’re all in then be all in. You’d get two years of control. I know the ask is high but Cleveland isn’t going to resign him and like I said Dick Williams has made it clear he’s trying to win in 2020. If you’re trying to win then try to win the whole damn thing.

    Te Reds have to upgrade one position with an all star 3-5 war caliber player if we’re gonna be legit contenders. There isn’t a free agent that fits that mold and shortstop is the most obvious hole without a replacement.

    • Steve Mancuso says:

      I like your priorities. Cody Reed might be the LH reliever. I think the Reds will set their sights high on a SS. Lindor may be too expensive, but there are other ones out there – teams that have two good SS, with one playing 2B maybe. The Reds might decide Galvis can play SS. A few years ago, Ketel Marte was blocked in Seattle, playing 2B and I said the Reds should trade for him and make him a SS. Had no idea this kind of year was coming for Marte, but he’d have been an upgrade. That kind of creative deal is most likely what will get that 3-5 WAR player you’re talking about. And I agree 100% that’s what they need and should make a hitter a top priority. Realmuto would have been a nice fit, eh?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I feel like there could be another Dodgers trade here. Pederson in his final year, the dodgers with 3 other solid outfielders, and may want to clear some payroll for a run at Cole or Rendon. They also like to trade for guys who don’t need to be in the 40 many, so maybe they target a Siani and guys in the lower levels like in December. Maybe a larger trade for someone like Kiki Hernandez or Chris Taylor too.