2011 Organizational Rankings: #9 – Cincinnati

After 10 years below .500, and 15 years without a playoff berth, the Cincinnati Reds surged to 91 wins, won the NL Central, and earned an MVP award for their homegrown (and Canadian!) star first baseman.

Present Talent – 83.33 (T-8th)

Reds Season Preview

Future Talent – 85.00 (T-5th)

Reds Top 10 Prospects

Financial Resources – 77.31 (16th)
Baseball Operations – 82.50 (10th)

Overall Rating – 81.56 (11th)

Nearly everything that could have gone right for the 2010 Reds, did. Joey Votto blossomed into the league’s most valuable player. Jay Bruce showed why he’s been viewed as a premium talent on both sides of the ball. Drew Stubbs posted a 3-win season in his first full big league season. On the pitching side, Johnny Cueto recorded a 3.97 FIP and the best season of his young career, rookie Travis Wood flashed a K/BB rate of better than 3-to-1, and Aroldis Chapman showed the world he can throw 104 miles-per-hour.

There are few teams in baseball who can match the Reds in quality and quantity of young talent. They have the roster of a contender, and yet most of the significant pieces in place are in their primes or still headed toward it. This is not a team that’s going to suffer much regression due to age-related decline – they’re a good team that should still be on their way up.

That said, the Reds land in the ninth spot on this list because of what they already have in house – the writing crew here is a bit more cautious about their ability to add talent going forward. The team is operating on a $75 million payroll that hasn’t changed at all in four years, and while that’s enough to pay a lot of these kids in the early stages of their careers, it will take a significant boost in spending to keep this core together long term. Cincinnati is one of the smaller markets in baseball with Forbes recently estimating that they earn “only” $179 million in revenues – there is some room for payroll growth if the team continues to win and drive attendance upward, but the Reds are never going to be Daddy Warbucks.

With a lower tier payroll, that means Cincinnati’s front office is going to have to get significant bang for their buck. On one hand, Walt Jocketty and his crew have to be given a good amount of credit for the work they’ve done in developing talent in house as well as picking out which underappreciated players they can pick up from other organizations and get value from. On the other hand, the two highest paid players on the team are Bronson Arroyo and Francisco Cordero, and neither contract speaks well of the franchise’s ability to discern what kind of pitchers deserve big money.

Jocketty’s track record across several organizations is pretty strong, however, and despite a few missteps along the way, he’s shown an ability to assemble talented teams without needing large payroll subsidies in order to do it. While the Reds might not be the most statistically-minded organization out there, they’re pretty good at the scouting side of things, and understand the need to develop from within to contend with the resources that they have.

While their market and revenue streams are the organization’s weakness, it’s not a crippling issue, and the Reds grade out pretty well in the other three areas. With a good young core of talent already in place, Jocketty and his staff will simply need to focus on keeping the right guys as their salaries escalate and surrounding them with quality role players to keep the team near the top of the National League Central. This is an easier task than needing to replace or add talent to fill a void, which is the main reason why the Reds find themselves in the top 10 of these rankings. Most of the heavy lifting has already been done – now they just need to not screw it up.

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Jonah Keri is the author of The Extra 2%: How Wall Street Strategies Took a Major League Baseball Team from Worst to First -- now a National Bestseller! Follow Jonah on Twitter @JonahKeri, and check out his awesome podcast.

62 Responses to “2011 Organizational Rankings: #9 – Cincinnati”

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  1. Mike Green says:

    Perfect summary, Jonah.

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  2. Nom Chompsky says:

    Final 8 predictions:

    8. Toronto
    7. Minnesota
    6. Tampa Bay
    5. Atlanta
    4. Texas
    3. Philadelphia
    2. Boston
    1. New York

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  3. MathuC says:

    My final 8 are:

    8. Atlanta
    7. Minnesota
    6. Toronto
    5. Texas
    4. Tampa Bay
    3. Philadelphia
    2. Boston
    1. New York

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    • Ed says:

      No way are the Yankees ahead of the Red Sox. I’m not a fan or a New England homer, but I have to admit that head to head the Sox appear to have better current talent, better future talent, and a better front office. Money alone won’t win it for the Yankees this time.

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      • Grant says:

        Boston has better future talent? LOL

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      • Captain says:

        the Red Soxs have one of the top 3 or 4 farm teams? because thats the only way they’ll have a better future talent score than the Yankees.

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      • Dustin says:

        I agree that Boston has better future talent at this point. The Yankees are loaded with huge contracts to very old players that are likely to decline a lot(already started for some) or retire like Jeter, Arod, Rivera, and Burnett. Boston does not have those big contracts tied into old players right now. Ortiz and Cameron are in the last year of there deals. Lackey and maybe Dice K would be the only contracts of declining and older players on the roster.

        As far as farm systems, I think it is close to a wash. I do give the Yankees the slight edge, but not enough to overcome the current rosters future outlook.

        Captain: Remember future talent can only be players currently under control by the respective teams.

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      • Total Dominication says:

        Dude, the Yankees had 6 prospects in the top 100 at ba. I believe boston had 1.

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  4. CircleChange11 says:

    Yeah, this site hates Philly + ATL has tons of young talent.


    Wasn’t Arroyo’s contract from a previous GM after BA came over from the AL?

    I find it very difficult (as a StL fan) not to pull for the Reds. Their team is easy to like.

    I wouldn’t say everything went right for CIN in 10. Volquez’s injury/suspension to start the year. CIN was able to plug in Wood and Leake to an already pretty good rotation.

    I’m still waiting for Jay Bruce to “really arrive”. Joey Votto is having Jay Bruce’s career.

    Damn Reds.

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    • Joel says:

      Arroyo signed another extension this off-season, which was friendly to the Reds given the actual money he’ll receive (a lot of the money is deferred). The contract makes him nearly untradable though since the deferred money becomes up front money if he’s traded.

      Also, technically, Brandon Phillips is higher paid than Arroyo and Joey Votto will make more money over the next 3 years than the total payout of Arroyo’s current contract. Lastly, Cordero’s in the last year of his deal (a deal signed before Jocketty came along), so using CoCo and Arroyo as an indicator that the Reds don’t spend money well is not quite right.

      Jocketty has been very creative with doling out contracts, getting Rolen to re-up on a cheap deal that may end up being a year too long, but doesn’t handcuff the team, and signing Chapman to an interesting contract that could look pretty good for the Reds in the end. Also, Arroyo’s the only player over 30 that’s locked up beyond 2012, so they hopefully won’t be burdened by any painful contracts (barring injuries, of course).

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    • adohaj says:

      It’s easy to forget that Bruce is only going to be 24 this April.


      Maybe its Bruce that is going to have Votto’s career. But at a more valuable position.

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  5. PGS says:

    Sorry, Aroldis threw 105 mph. Thats all

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  6. reuben says:

    Arroyo was renewed this offseason.

    I’m a Reds fan, but this seems a little high to me. I’m not sure they have a long term solution foe left field or 3b. I don’t think any if their pitchers have top shelf stuff. Their depth helps them survive the regular season better than most, but I just don’t dont know if it can get them through many playoff series. I guess these are minor quibbles, but I think they could be seen as big flaws sooner rather than later.

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    • DL80 says:

      Volquez has top-shelf, or close to top-shelf, stuff. So does Chapman.

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    • PGS says:

      “Top shelf stuff”

      They have some Cuban who has some potential

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    • doug K says:

      The one thing that consistently amazes me is that most Reds fans I know and read are much more pessimistic about their team than neutral observers. They have just grown so used to losing that they seem addicted to the idea their team is bad and see it glass half empty. Which is just the opposite of the way it was in the 70’s to 90’s when whoever was playing for the Reds was the greatest player in baseball history.

      If Reds fans get that swagger back this franchise will prove to be a sleeping giant for revenues I think as there is a big secondary market near Cincinnati that is just waiting to really believe.

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  7. Grant says:

    8. Texas
    7. Toronto
    6. Minnesota
    5. Tampa
    4. Atlanta
    3. Boston
    2. Philadelphia
    1. New York

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  8. #18finance says:

    Please explain how this team — which only “earns” $179MM/yr and stays at a $75MM payroll — is ranked 16th in financial resources while the Mets are 18th.

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    • RC says:

      Because the Mets earn $50M/yr more than the Reds.

      If the Mets didn’t have all the Madoff crap going on, they’d be in the top 3 for revenue.

      That, and clearly the Reds, despite making decent revenue, don’t seem to want to reinvest it into the club.

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      • hunterfan says:

        “That, and clearly the Reds, despite making decent revenue, don’t seem to want to reinvest it into the club.”

        At least Marge Schott was up front with the fact that she wasn’t re-investing the money in the club!

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  9. MiM says:

    Everyone seems to be underestimating the Twins, as they increased their payroll by $45 million from 2009 to 2011 (They’re opening payroll this year will be around $110). They have financial resources, an MVP to build around, a pitching staff filled with depth (plus one of the top pitching coaches), and just 3 players that are owed money in 2014 (Mauer, Span, Nishioka). I could see them being ranked higher than Texas, Philly and Toronto. They may rank a bit poorer in baseball ops, but they could easily be debated up to the 4th spot (I think the top 3 are New York, Boston, Atlanta). I suppose the lack of future talent is a bit concerning, but they have just $65 million committed to 2012.

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    • Luke in MN says:

      As a totally biased estimate, I’d put the Twins at about 5th or 6th in present talent, 10th-15th in future talent, about 10th in baseball operations, and about 7th-10th in financial resources. Strong everywhere, not overwhelmingly so anywhere. That would probably keep them out of the top 5, but say, 6 or 7 seems about right. I certainly don’t see them behind Toronto and I’d put them ahead of Texas, but it’s close. The rest are probably better.

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  10. Scout Finch says:

    “Nearly everything that could have gone right for the 2010 Reds…”

    With respect to teams that aren’t prohibitive favorites that win their division or win it all, isn’t this cliche getting worn to a nub.

    I suppose given the context of a few hundred years, everything has gone right to make Boston & New York the prohibitive favorites year in, year out.

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  11. wrinklebump says:

    It is theologically impossible for a team with Bill James on the payroll not to be ranked first at a saber-oriented site

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  12. Baron Samedi says:

    Jays should definitely be ahead of Minn. Better present talent (based on 3rd order wins), better future talent, richer ownership and smarter front office.

    8. Texas
    7. Minnesota
    6. Toronto
    5. Atlanta
    4. Philli

    Top 3 seem pretty interchangeable, but it’s almost certainly some combination of:

    3. Tampa
    2. New York
    1. Boston

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  13. Josh says:

    Almost certain that the rays are in the top three? Their financial resources will bring them down. My guess is texas is third due to ownership, tv deal, and the attendance boom happening (already sold 1.5 mil tickets for this season) which will allow them a lot of room for spending over the next few years.

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    • Steven Ellingson says:

      Yes, this is a weighted average. So even if they all think Tampa is in the top three, if they voted correctly, that financial resources should keep them out.

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      • David K says:

        Agreed. Because the teams with the most financial resources can almost always buy whatever pieces they need. So if the ranking is based on a team’s likelihood to be successful now and in the future, financial resources HAS to be more heavily weighted than anything else. That puts NY and BOS at 1 and 2. Even though NY has more financial resources than BOS, BOS should have enough resources to do pretty much whatever they want anyway, so to break the “tie” between these two teams, I would think other factors would be more of an issue than just the financial resources. Given the “Steinbrenner factor”, I’m actually predicting that BOS will be ranked ahead of NY.

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      • David K says:

        I guess my prediction was wrong. Even though I like the Yanks and hate the Red Sox, I would have ranked them the other way around right now. Seeing the articles now, they have the Yanks ahead of BOS in present talent, but I don’t buy it. And I am not sure how they weight the 4 scores and average them, but I am sure it’s a one-size-fits-all formula for all teams. I think I pointed out one flaw in that type of formula. When comparing NY and Tampa, yes, the financial resources are a SIGNIFICANT distinction, but between NY and BOS, it should’t be, yet the Yanks got 93.18 while BOS got 90.83. I think once your financial resources get above a certain level, it doesn’t matter anymore. Either team can assemble a roster of $300m if they wanted to and would turn a profit. At that point, the other factors would be more likely to separate the two teams than just finances. In my humble opinion.

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  14. jason461 says:

    Good article, typo at the end though (apparently the Reds were almost 11th). Also, just want to add to some of the other contract stuff mentioned in the comments, that the Arroyo contract, while certainly not great, might not be as bad as it looks. He really consistently bests his FIP (and he’s been around long enough that that’s probably not an anomaly), so he’s probably a bit more valuable than fWAR would suggest. Again, it’s not a great contract, but it’s not going to kill the team.

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    • David K says:

      Not only that, but the article’s stated measuring stick was merely that Arroyo and Cordero are the two highest paid players on the team, but they are veterans that are expected to command more $ than the rest of the players on the roster, even if some of those players are better. Instead of stating it the way the article did, the writer should have shown what the actual $/yr of these 2 guys are vs. comparable players, and THEN we can see if those two guys are overpaid. I didn’t see that evidence here.

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  15. guayzimi says:

    Sorry Jonah this is a bad swing and miss. The 2010 rankings had them at #20-having everything go right in 2010 should not cause them to jump 11 spots.

    Their future talent is badly redundant, which is a nice luxury, but it diminishes the overall impact of their talent. Chapman is an excellent prospect, but he’s currently a relief pitcher, he’s being handled by Dusty, and he’ll be paid $30-$50 million over the next six years. He’s not really a “cost-controlled” young player.

    Walt Jocketty is terrible GM who got lucky in 2010. The extensions he gave to Cueto and Arroyo were completely inadvisable, and now both have serious issues going into the season. Dusty is a bad manager, the payroll is constrained, the Cincy market isn’t large, and the team doesn’t draw fans. They ranked 12th in the NL in attendance last year and down the stretch the stadium was half empty. Many home games in September drew less than 20,000 people. I know attendance isn’t part of your formula, but it just shows the problems they have and will have with payroll and creating an environment where good players want to play. They’ve got some decent talent and everything came together for them in 2010. That doesn’t mean they’re the #9 organization.

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    • jason461 says:

      Arroyo has mono. How could Jocketty possibly have seen that coming? Cueto was also quite a surprise. In any case, Arroyo is going to pitch through it and Cueto should be back soon.

      Additionally, the Reds have good prospects coming at all 3 of their weakest positions (catcher, short, and LF), so I don’t see how that’s redundant. They do have a lot of pitchers, but pitchers get hurt.

      This comment reads like you decided something and then cherry-picked examples to back it up (seriously, the Arroyo thing is just beyond the pale).

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      • guayzimi says:

        Jocketty already had him signed for his age 34 season. He’s coming off a year where he had a league low babip against. Obviously, this is not the time to lock up his age 35 and 36 seasons. Given the Reds limited payroll and their plentiful pitching, I don’t know why the Reds would want him when he’s 35-36 period, let alone buy high on those years right after he was the luckiest pitcher in the NL.

        The argument is that he “takes the ball every day” and “is good for 200 innings year in and year out.” And he does that – until he stops doing it which will more than likely happen in the next couple years if hasn’t already happened with this mono thing. I understand the utility of freeing up $6 million for 2011, but better to take the entire $13 million hit and be done with him after this year.

        As for Chapman’s contract (to the commenter below), read the fine print. $30 million is the floor. Chapman will tack on to that whatever he can get in the arbitration system. If he pans out it will go north of $50 million.

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      • Jason461 says:

        Guayzimi – I know I have won an argument when the response has nothing to do with the points I made or the original points you made. Thank you for that.

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    • scholzy says:

      Seems like a lot of generalities and opinions that could easily be argued against.

      Chapman won’t make “$30-$50 million” he’ll make $30 million. If he was set to make $50 that would make the contract look a lot worse.

      They are ranked as having one of the best farm systems in baseball, which matters for every other team on the list, why is it that the Reds’ farm system quality is “badly redundant”?

      The question of Cincinnati attendance is a valid one – I was pretty disappointed to see how bad it was down the stretch, but to say that Jocketty is a terrible GM and Dusty Baker are bad managers might be oversimplifying things a little bit. Jocketty has a great track record, and, for the whole of his career so does Dusty. He makes some awfully questionable in-game decisions, but he wins everywhere he goes (save Chicago, but they’re helpless).

      #9 maybe not, but that was a pretty poor argument for why not.

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      • David K says:

        He may win wherever he goes, but what were the expectations of those rosters he had to manage? The teams may have won in spite of him, rather than because of him.

        To compare it to another sport, I always thought Dennis Green was an overrated coach for the Vikings. Yeah, he won a lot of games there, but I felt a better coach could have done more with the roster he had. After he left, the team didn’t do better, but I think their roster got worse around the same time, and Green couldn’t do much with a so-so Arizona squad, which got better after he left, but that had something to do with that guy named Warner.

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  16. Xeifrank says:

    I had Cincy at #10, so pretty good agreement there.

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  17. Rick says:

    In terms of salary:
    – Arroyo’s salary was actually reduced in his latest contract extension, with a big chunk of it deferred without interest. He’s making ~$7M per through 2013.
    – Cordero wasn’t a Jocketty signing, he was a Krivsky signing pushed by Castellini, who recently admitted his mistake in meddling. There’s no way he’s retained.
    – Phillips has a $12M option that may or may not be picked up. In any event, he’s unlikely to be extended.

    Votto, Bruce, Cueto, Chapman are all locked in at reasonable prices. Stubbs won’t be arb eligible until 2013. That’s not to say they’ll have a ton of room to play with, but in the next few years, they will pick up some payroll space while adding production through maturation and losing relatively little via FA.

    In terms of total payroll, Castellini has said that payroll will increase as attendance does. If the winning ways continue, that could mean as much as a $10M boost.

    Despite guayzimi’s assertions, Arroyo’s mono is not serious and he may even pitch through it. Cueto’s issues are troubling, but not yet truly serious.

    Overall, it seems like a fair assessment. Though the Reds don’t really have sustainable 95 win upside, this is a team primed to be an 85-90 win team for the next 4-5 years, which seems to justify a ranking around this spot.

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  18. CircleChange11 says:

    David K … The point you made was that talent is more important than coaching.

    Most of us had that figured out at age 8.

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    • David K says:

      CircleChange11: Well, the person I was replying to gave credit to Baker for just winning wherever he goes. I know most of us know that talent outweighs coaching, but that poster evidently didn’t, and I was trying to be somewhat NICE in my response to demonstrate the flaw in his statement. Maybe you need a little lesson in civility?

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  19. Anthony says:

    who said Jocketty was a terrible GM? With the Cards from 1994-2007, which was (not so arguably) the NL team of the decade. With the Reds he built the first winner in forever and they’re a strong bet to stay that way. Three time executive of the year. You give him Epstein or Cashman’s job and he’ll win the WS 3/5 years and NEVER miss the playoffs.

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  20. My echo and bunnymen says:

    I would love to see each of these rankings (present and future talent, financial resources, and baseball operations) ranked in a separate story after the final ranking comes out.

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