Look out, suckas. The baseball machine keeps churning. It's time to move on from last year. There might be frost on the bushes, but I'm looking to the future. The future, Gage? That's right, Mr. T, the future. All the way to the year 2007. This past year was a fun one but it's primary worth now is only to help answer the "what went wrong?" questions and to almost daily enrage me that the Cardinals actually won the trophy after 83 wins. Plus, what with all the big name players already out on the FA market, it seems like as good a time as any (read: before my hopes get shot down).
Before I break out the gameplan in the coming days, let's do a little housekeeping and take a look at the payroll situation. There's no real telling what Bob Castellini is going to do here, for sure. He really only started running things right before the season started and all the money was already locked up. However, I'm pretty sure you shouldn't get your hopes up for a $100 million payroll. Looking back, 2004-2006 payrolls were $43 million, $50 million and $60 million, respectively. That's a 16% and a 20% increase over previous years. I've read a couple of educated guesses that the 2007 salary will be around $75 million (25% increase). Not bad, not quite the $200 million that the Yankees will spend though.
Does this mean that they actually have an extra $15 million to spend on bringing in new talent, probably not. The main reason being that players have escalated salaries and will be making more this year than last. While we're here let's not neglect to mention the dead weight. Eric Milton will make a hefty $10.5 million this year which looks mighty ugly next to Ken Griffey Jr.'s $12.5 million (and yes, Griffey is officially dead weight). Throw onto that Adam Dunn's $10.5 million (approximately $50,000 per strikeout) and you're already pushing half the team's salary. I'm starting to think that the primary reason baseball is so fucked up is these guaranteed salaries. A mid-level team like the Reds just can't afford to take a chance on an aging star and run the risk of sabotaging your payroll for years to come.
By now you're sitting there thinking "okay Gage, I see the numbers, but what's it all mean?" As well you should be. What it means is that the Reds just like any other team have some holes to fill and while Wayne Krivsky got a couple of steals last year (Phillips, Ross) he did manage to trade away a .300 hitting shortstop who fit nicely into the salary structure. But, I digress. I guess what I'm trying to say here is that it's going to cost some money to plug the multiple holes, and when it comes down to it the Reds just can't afford to put all of their eggs in one basket. I believe I read one report that said Soriano was looking for $17 million/yr. That's just an inconcievably large number for this organization that immediately prices them out of the bidding. In the end we're probably looking at 3-4 midrange role players much like what happened last year. The Scott Hatteburg and Rich Aurilia experiments were a success and Krivsky will try to duplicate those results.
The one wild card: Castellini. He has in one year brought a fresh new attitude to the ownership, openly stating (with no caveats, mind you) that he wants to win and that winning is his top priority. Concievably this is all just talk and the payroll will be right where we expected it. But, this will be Castellini's first real off-season and he may want to make a splash. I could see him bumping the payroll up by $5-10 million and landing that one big free agent. For the record, this is all just speculation and there have been no rumors to that effect. But, it's not even the winter meetings yet, so I'm pretty sure Buster Olney is just making up rumors now to keep himself busy. Just remember you read it here first.
Next installment: Offseason Priorities