End-of-Year Update on Reds Roster and Payroll

The end of 2019 seems like a reasonable time to check in on the Reds roster and payroll status. For the purpose of this post we’ll assume the deal with Japanese outfielder Shogo Akiyama becomes finalized close to the terms reported by several sources. All the other trades, tenders, non-tenders and free agent signings are accounted for. We’ll build a roster from the players the Reds have, figure out how much they’ll cost and finish with a guess at how much they still have to spend.

Opening Day Roster By Position

These are best guesses if the season started tomorrow, which it doesn’t. It would be a surprise if there weren’t additional changes, even big ones.

Starting Position Players 

  • C – Tucker Barnhart
  • 1B – Joey Votto
  • 2B – Mike Moustakas (info)
  • SS – Freddy Galvis
  • 3B – Eugenio Suarez
  • LF – Jesse Winker
  • CF – Nick Senzel
  • RF – Shogo Akiyama (info)

Five Bench Slots

  • C – Curt Casali
  • IF – Kyle Farmer
  • IF – Josh VanMeter
  • OF – Aristides Aquino
  • OF – Phil Ervin

None of these bench guys are natural shortstops. Alex Blandino would be one, so he could replace Farmer. Mark Payton (info) has to be on the Reds Opening Day roster or returned to the Oakland A’s per Rule 5. This list puts Nick Martini (info) and Travis Jankowski (info) in Louisville.

Starting Rotation

  • Luis Castillo
  • Sonny Gray
  • Trevor Bauer
  • Anthony DeSclafani
  • Wade Miley (info)


  • Raisel Iglesias
  • Michael Lorenzen
  • Amir Garrett
  • Robert Stephenson
  • Matt Bowman
  • Lucas Sims
  • Cody Reed
  • Jose De Leon (info)

That puts Tyler Mahle starting in Louisville. If the Reds sign a free agent for the bullpen, expect them to put Jose De Leon in the Louisville rotation. As a lefty with no options, Cody Reed should be on the Opening Day roster in the bullpen if he’s healthy. Justin Shafer (info) would be in Louisville.

We now have reports of the Reds final tender decisions plus new signings for IF Mike Moustakas and OF Travis Jankowski. That means we can derive another baseline roster using players currently under team control. From estimates of their salaries, we can figure out a rough approximation of how much they have left to spend on new players. Let’s start by breaking down the players based on their contract tier:

Payroll Status

Players Under Contract

These ten players have guaranteed contracts for 2020:

  • Joey Votto – $25 million
  • Mike Moustakas – $12 million
  • Sonny Gray – $10.9 million
  • Eugenio Suarez – $9.5 million
  • Raisel Iglesias – $9 million
  • Shogo Akiyama – $6 million
  • Wade Miley – $6 million
  • Freddy Galvis – $5.5 million
  • Tucker Barnhart – $3.9 million
  • Travis Jankowski – $1.1 million

The estimate for Akiyama comes from the reported contract figure of 3 years at about $21 million with a bit of backloading like the Reds have done with Moustakas and Miley. If Jankowski doesn’t make the Opening Day roster, the Reds still owe him that amount.

This category adds up to $88.9 million. Let’s round it to $89 million.

Players Headed to Arbitration

These five players have not reached a salary agreement for 2020 yet. Due to their service time, they have the right to arbitration as a way to settle a dispute. The dollar figures here are based on the average of estimates from Cots Contracts and MLBTR.

  • Trevor Bauer – $18.3 million
  • Anthony DeSclafani – $5 million
  • Michael Lorenzen – $4.2 million
  • Curt Casali – $1.8 million
  • Matt Bowman – $900,000

This category adds up to $30.2 million. Let’s round it to $30 million.

Players Pre-Arbitration

MLB rosters are expanded to 26 players this year. Assuming Jankowski doesn’t make it, the Reds would fill 12 Opening Day roster spots with players earning league minimum of $563,000. That league minimum number is based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. This is a plausible list of who those players will be.

  • Nick Senzel
  • Jesse Winker
  • Aristides Aquino
  • Kyle Farmer
  • Luis Castillo
  • Amir Garrett
  • Robert Stephenson
  • Phil Ervin
  • Josh VanMeter
  • Cody Reed
  • Lucas Sims
  • Jose De Leon

That’s 12 players for roughly $6.8 million. Teams often give returning players a small salary boost. Let’s round it to $7 million.

Bottom Line

For this Opening Day roster of 26 players, 13 pitchers and 13 position players, plus Jankowski, total payroll would be $126 million.

Only the front office knows the payroll number or range that ownership has given them. 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.

Dick Williams has indicated the increase will continue. If you assume the payroll budget is between $135-140 million (and I think this is conservative) that means the Reds still have $9-14 million left to spend on upgrades.

A couple weeks ago (What’s Next for the Reds?) we listed three free agent categories where they likely would be adding. They’ve checked two of those boxes with Wade Miley (mid-range starting pitcher) and now Shogo Akiyama (corner OF bat). That leaves the blindfolded dart throw at the relief pitcher board.

The Reds have more than enough cash remaining to cover the reliever. From that, you could infer they aren’t done yet. Also, while the Moustakas and Akiyama signings are definite improvements for the offense, by themselves, they aren’t of the scope you would expect based on front office comments and their all-out push for pitching last season. Stay tuned for more roster moves, big ones.

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.

3 Responses

  1. Brian P Van Hook says:

    Love this analysis. Frankly, I’m holding out hope that with Shogo in the fold, Dick/Nick are working on a trade to perhaps upgrade shortstop. Does Lindor become a possibility, even at the cost of Senzel?

    The current $126 million, plus Lindor, then minus whatever less in salaries would go the other way, just might fit into the Reds’ bigger budget. I could live a little bullpen uncertainty until the season gets closer.