Sunday, September 19, 2004

Payroll increase could be in sight

Reds insider

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Let's crunch some numbers here.

The Reds are looking at an attendance of a bit over 2.2 million this year.

Last year, they drew 2,355,259.

This year, the Opening Day payroll was $46 million.

Last year, the Opening Day payroll was $59 million

The Reds are believed to have turned a profit of between $2 million and $3 million last year.

Now, I'm no CPA, but my guess is they're going to make a whole lot more money this year - $10 million or $12 million more.

Chief operating officer John Allen will only say that the attendance is better than expected.

But what all this means for next year is the Reds aren't in any dire shape as far as payroll. In fact, next year the payroll will be higher than it was this year.

What it will be, Allen won't say.

But given owner Carl Lindner's philosophy of keeping the Reds a break-even proposition, it serves to reason that the Reds will bump up the payroll.

So the Reds don't have to trade Sean Casey. They don't have to non-tender Jason LaRue, D'Angelo Jimenez or John Riedling.

And they don't have to let Paul Wilson walk as a free agent.

That's not to say they won't do any of the above. But, if they do, it will be for baseball reasons - not financial.

What's happened with the Reds goes against the trend of some teams that open stadiums and then struggle.

The Pittsburgh Pirates drew 2.4 million for the first year of PNC Park and 1.7 million the second. The Milwaukee Brewers drew 2.8 million the first year of Miller Park and 1.9 million the second.

In both cases, that had an affect on the payroll. Pittsburgh's payroll went from $54 million to $42 million to $32 million the first three years at PNC. Milwaukee's went from $50 million to $40 million to $27 million.

The Reds don't have to deal with the third-year drop.

If payroll gets back to last year's level of $59 million or so, the club has a chance to be competitive - if the young starting pitching keeps coming along.

A lot of that money could be eaten up by raises for arbitration-eligible players. Adam Dunn alone could go from making $445,000 to $5 million or so.

FREE AGENTS: One name on the free agent list jumps out for a quick fix to the Reds' bullpen problem: Scott Williamson.

The former Red still lives in town. He's had elbow problems, but he still has some nasty stuff.

He can set up or close. He makes $3.1 million this year, but given his health issues he might come at a discount rate.

HALL OF A PLACE: I'd like to second colleague John Erardi's review of the Reds Hall of Fame, which is set to open to the public Saturday.

The place is spectacular. No corners were cut. One of the nice things is it has enough to keep kids and adults interested.

The Hall moves Great American Ball Park way up on the ballpark experience scale.

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