GOODYEAR, Ariz. — As the Reds rebuild, they’re adding younger players. In baseball, younger means cheaper.
Right now, the Reds’ payroll projects at about $84 million. That will be down considerably from last year’s record of the $115 million. If Jay Bruce is traded, the Reds would have a payroll of just over $70 million.
General Manager Dick Williams said the saved money will go back into the team.
“Yes, it will — 100 percent,” he said. “We plan on investing where we can, we're not saving to create a profit, we're saving to invest in the future, for sure. We've got the biggest amateur signing pool this year when you combine domestic and international. We want to take full advantage of it.
“Obviously there's a lot of operational investments we'll make, as well. I talked about investing in the analytics and sports science. We'll be investing in personnel, scouting personnel, new player development initiatives. I'll be talking a lot about that over the course of this year as we roll things out, but we'll put that money to work for sure.”
The Reds are in transition on the field as well as the front office. Williams will take over as the head of baseball operations in 2017 when Walt Jocketty, currently the president of baseball operations, moves to a consulting role.
The extra money from the reduced payroll will allow Williams to reset some things as he takes over. The Reds have hired two analytics people into new positions.
“That's certainly one of the advantages of having a transition period, is that I've got the benefit of Walt and I can work on a lot of the daily GM duties together and it does free us up,” Williams said. “I can also work on a strategy for the future and, quite frankly, get his input, get Bob (Castellini’s) input. Having both of us here, instead of a cleaner break, gives us more resources so we are able to spend time planning a strategy.”
As far as Bruce being traded, it sounds like the deal with Toronto is dead. The Reds nearly had Bruce traded Monday, but the deal fell through because one of the prospects the Reds were getting from the Blue Jays had a medical issue.
“There’s nothing to comment on,” Williams said. “There’s nothing imminent.”
The Reds reportedly had agreed to a deal with Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez in January. That never happened.
“I will say from all the press I read I had to go check and make sure we didn’t sign someone,” Williams said. “Nothing imminent. Nothing to report. We’re active down there. We’re scouting. We’re going to a lot of showcases. We’re keeping our eye on players. But nothing imminent.”
The reported deal for Rodriguez was for $6 million. That would have exceeded the Reds’ international signing pool, thus they would have incurred a 100 percent penalty and be unable to sign a player for more than $300,000 for the next two signing periods.
Williams said the Reds would go over their pool amount for the right signing.
“We would be,” Williams said. “A lot has been written about the strategy of exceeding your limit. It makes sense in the right situation. We’re certainly considering that strategy. We’re willing to do it for the right player. We have not exceeded out pool in this signing period.
“Based on the information we have now, I don’t anticipate us exceeding our pool this year. But I wouldn’t rule it out.”
There’s been speculation that the rules for international signings with change with the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — that there could be an international draft.
“It's something we've asked ourselves, if the rules change, what will happen to teams that are maybe in the penalty phase,” Williams said. “I don't have the answer. We looked to MLB for some guidance, and they weren't able to say definitively. I think everyone has to assume that the penalties that exist now are the penalties you'd observe. You can certainly factor in the fact that there's a new CBA coming, you can factor that in your decision process.”
As for an international draft, Williams doesn’t expect it soon.
“I think everybody says that would take a little while to get in place, just logistically,” he said. “I don't know how soon that will come. They contemplated it in the CBA five years ago, so I'd be shocked if they didn't give it more contemplation in this CBA. From what I've heard, it sounds like the penalties for exceeding, at minimum, those are going to change, and probably pretty significantly.”