I mean, at least the NL Central Baseball Upper Middle Class.
I’m used to thinking of the Reds as economic underdogs. Yes, we’re pretty mid-market, but in my head, we were always a smaller mid-market team. When you look at this chart, that’s not terribly off.
Although the ranks have changed, Cincinnati has pretty solidly been in the “not as small as the Pirates, but definitely way less than the Cubs and Cardinals” category of NL Central payrolls. From 2003 to 2012, the Astros payrolls declined, while the Brewers peaked at about 10 million dollars more than the Reds last year. Compared to the league, meanwhile, the Reds have generally been just under the median.
However, given the situation right now, that may just change in 2013. Of course, the 2013 payrolls aren’t set just yet. The Reds could trade off some payroll, and there are still free agents to sign. However, the number of high price free agents is dwindling – maybe just Michael Bourn, Nick Swisher, AJ Pierzynski, and Rafael Soriano, depending on how you look at it – and there’s no way they all end up in the Central. So the number of possibilities that would seriously shake up the division’s payrolls are limited, and the Reds are currently sitting pretty close to the top.
The front page of baseball-reference lists the estimated projected payrolls of every team right now. They’re not final, obviously, and they’re not perfect, but they put the Cincinnati Reds as the second biggest payroll in the NL Central – and not nearly as far behind the St. Louis Cardinals as we have been in the past. The Cards could definitely see a big increase – even the projection is a few million dollars under 2012′s payroll, but that doesn’t even include the Ryan Ludwick contract, which will probably add ~5 to 7 million to the 2013 payroll, depending on the contract details.
Projecting out the numbers from Cots Contracts at Baseball Prospectus gives slightly different numbers (For instance, does Joey’s 2 million signing bonus that he receives this year (as part of his 2011 extension) count as part of his salary?) But the general picture is the same. Although Fay counseled us not to expect the payroll to increase by much, or even at all, we’ve already blown past that. And there’s not a lot that can be done to bring it back down. Sure, I think Jocketty will probably buy out some arbitration years with contracts that are more friendly to the team in 2013, and he might even trade away some salary, but that’s probably a million here or there, and he’s said the Reds are mostly done. No matter what, I think the Reds 2013 payroll looks set to be $100 million, or very close.
Meanwhile, the Cubs and Brewers payrolls have really dropped in recent years – I’m sure neither club is done, but, again, with only $81 million and $67 million on the projected payrolls currently, there aren’t a lot of options for the them to spend lots of money. The Cubs I’m sure, still HAVE tons of money, and we’ll probably see more of that get spent when the time is right. Plus, the Cardinals will probably still have a bigger payroll than us. (Incidentally, as Mr. Tiger calculated, the “center of money” – if you weight every team by its payroll – of the National League is somewhere near Strafford Missouri. Here’s the spreadsheet to prove it. The calculations also bear out the observation that NL money is much farther west than AL money – even accounting for geography)
I’m much less confident that the Reds payroll will be significantly above the 2013 MLB Median, but I think our positioning compared to the rest of the league has changed, in addition to the situation in the NL Central. By the estimated projected payrolls, we’re fifth in the NL – and I suspect we’ll drop to sixth or seventh depending on what the Nationals and Mets do. But that’s still a big change from 11th in 2012.
What does that mean? Not much. But, with many payrolls in the Central shrinking, I feel like that makes now a great time for the Reds to be increasing our payroll, and the management probably thinks that, too. I kind of enjoy feeling like a major spending power in the Central – at least as we’re also winning a lot of games. On the other hand, if you enjoy feeling like a small market team, our payroll still feels pretty tiny compared to, say, the Dodgers, who can afford to spend ~$100 million on SEVEN different starting pitchers THIS YEAR.