Reds payroll and roster after Strop and Castellanos

Reporting everywhere today that the Reds have signed right-handed reliever Pedro Strop to a contract, pending completion of a physical.

Details of the bonuses have been reported. If Strop pitches in 60 games, which seems like a reasonable optimistic-about-health estimate, he’ll make an extra $175,000, pulling in a nice round $2 million. Seems like the plan.


Opening Day Payroll

Prior to signing OF Nick Castellanos earlier this week, Reds payroll had been about $126 million. That assumes $88.9M for the ten guaranteed contracts plus $30.2M for five arbitration awards and $7M for the 11 remaining roster slots paying league minimum plus courtesy raises. That totals about $126M.

Nick Castellanos signed for 4 years and $64 million. But we later learned that some of Castellanos’ salary is deferred. Only $10M counts toward the Opening Day roster (although there are certainly other ways to look at that). Adding $10M and subtracting one of the league minimum slots puts the OD payroll around $135.6M. Adding Strop’s $1.8M and subtracting a league minimum salary puts Reds payroll around $137M.

$137M would be a club record. The ’19 Opening Day payroll was around $127M. The average major league payroll in ’19 was $139M.

Opening Day Roster

Pedro Strop’s signing completes the three categories of obvious free agency moves I wrote about in mid-December. Nick Castellanos is the “big corner outfield bat,” Wade Miley the “mid-range starting pitcher,” and now Strop as the annual random dart throw at the veteran reliever board.

The Reds roster is tight. All teams can carry 26 players this year, generally 13 pitchers and 13 position players. Barring trade or injury, a plausible Opening Day roster would be (this is not a prediction, it’s an illustration):

Starting Position Players 

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

Five Bench Slots

  • C – Curt Casali
  • IF – Kyle Farmer
  • IF – Josh VanMeter
  • OF – Phil Ervin
  • OF – Shogo Akiyama

None of the bench guys is a natural shortstop. Suarez or Senzel could move there in an emergency. Alex Blandino would be one, so he could replace Farmer or VanMeter. Mark Payton (Rule 5) has to be on the Reds Opening Day roster or returned to the Oakland A’s. The former seems extremely unlikely now. Notably, this list puts Aristides Aquino and Travis Jankowski in Louisville. Aquino could replace Josh VanMeter.

Starting Rotation

  • Luis Castillo
  • Sonny Gray
  • Trevor Bauer
  • Anthony DeSclafani
  • Wade Miley


  • Raisel Iglesias
  • Michael Lorenzen
  • Amir Garrett
  • Robert Stephenson
  • Matt Bowman
  • Lucas Sims
  • Cody Reed
  • Pedro Strop

This puts Tyler Mahle and Jose De Leon in Louisville as starters or swingmen. It means Joe Kuhnel, Josh Smith, Justin Shafer, Tyler Thornberg and Nate Jones didn’t make the team. Lots of competition is good. Spring Training offers an awfully small sample size to form opinions.

About Pedro Strop

Strop’s signing follows in illustrious corps of Zack Duke, Jared Hughes, David Hernandez, Kevin Quackenbush, Blake Wood, Drew Storen, Steve Delabar, Burke Badenhop and Kevin Gregg. The lesson being that signing veteran relievers is a crapshoot. That might be a generous characterization. Some work out, some don’t. Some never pitch for a major league team again.

Strop is 34 years old. He’s right-handed. Strop pitched for the Rangers and Orioles early in his career, but Reds fans know him best from pitching for the Cubs since 2013. He was part of the trade when the Orioles sent Jake Arrieta to the Cubs for Scott Feldman. (Nice job by the Orioles there.)

As dart throws go, this one is fine. It’s smarter to pick up a guy who pitched better than it looks from public-facing stats than the reverse. Just remember that you can’t really rely on career history for a 34-year-old pitcher. But at $2M, it’s a solid pick. Strop is no Kevin Gregg. Probably.

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.

4 Responses

  1. Chris Neely says:

    It’s a good thing that Puig ain’t in the house any more . Let’s all hope Mr. Strop has matured somewhat since last season.

  2. ScottyA says:

    This team has a chance to win 90 games, anything they can do to push their chances forward will be important.

    Side note: Barnhart has a career 585 ops vs lhp (really bad). That has convinced me that Farmer (hits lefties pretty well in small sample) being on the roster may be a good thing as a backup to Casali and to keep Barnhart out of the batting order vs lhp.

    Also, for the sake of winning in 2020, I’d like to see the Reds give Mahle a try in the bullpen. He may be dominating out of the pen and provide a + 1 war to this team in likely a tight race for the division. Either way the pen looks pretty nice, but I’m concerned about Iglesias, who appeared to take a step back in 19′. He got knocked around really unlike I had seen a few games last season, one I saw in person in St louis.

  3. Brian P Van Hook says:

    Since David Bell lives to make double-switches, the Reds should keep Kyle Farmer as a third catcher. Especially having the extra roster spot.

    I prefer the idea of Mahle in Louisville making starts. Once he goes to the pen, then it takes three or four weeks to stretch him back out if he’s needed in the rotation. And if he has any success there, he’ll never escape. (Which, as long as the Reds are willing to keep going elsewhere for starters, might not be so bad, I suppose.)

    So who goes bye-bye from the 40-man to make room for Strop? The closest things I see to low-hanging fruit are Blandino or Schebler.

    • Brian P Van Hook says:

      Which kinda makes me wonder whether the Reds have another move or two up their sleeve. He said, replying to himself.)

      And got a chuckle out of the “annual random dart throw at the veteran reliever board.” Nicely done.