CINCINNATI — Everyone in baseball seems to agree that what the Reds are doing - wholesale rebuilding - is an inevitable part of the game for small-market teams. When the players you develop start making big bucks en masse, you have to trade some of them for younger talent.
Not every team can spend like the New York Yankees and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Some of this year’s best teams are coming off rebuilding programs. The Cubs, Astros and World Champion Royals all struggled for years before turning it around.
But the scary thing about rebuilding is you don’t know how long it’s going to take and you don’t know if it’s going to work.
The Pirates were perpetually rebuilding before things finally clicked.
In the Reds’ case, would it have made more sense to give it one more try with this group? As things shook out, Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake didn't break the bank - at least for 2016. Cueto will make $16 million, Leake $12 million.
It would not be at surprising if they move Jay Bruce ($12.5 million). They’d almost assuredly move Brandon Phillips ($13 million) if he’d agree to a trade.
The Reds could have as little as $46.2 million in multiyear contract obligations when spring training starts. That goes to Joey Votto ($20 million), Homer Bailey ($18 million), Devin Mesoraco ($5 million) and Raisel Iglesias ($3.2 million).
But let’s go back to what I mentioned earlier. What if the Reds had tried to keep last season's group together and were able to re-sign Cueto and Leake for what they got? The payroll would be at $119 million for 10 aforementioned players. That’s not completely unreasonable. The only two players on the roster who will make much more than minimum are Zack Cozart, arbitration-eligible for the second time, and J.J. Hoover, arb-eligible for the first time.
The Reds' payroll was $115 million this year.
I see why the Reds are doing what they’re doing. The old way didn't work the last two years. But with better health and a little luck, they might have been able to play over .500 ball in 2016.
With the group they’re likely to put out there, avoiding 100 losses will be an accomplishment.
It’s hard to draw in this town when you’re not winning. And you have to win for a long time to reestablish your base after a few bad years. UC basketball is an example of that.
It’s going to be hard for the Reds to sell tickets next year. Frazier and Chapman were two of the club's marquee players. I think the best the Reds can hope is that they get off to a good start and some of the young players they added win over the fans.