The Cincinnati Reds went from pushing their moped down the road to flooring it in their slightly used 2019 Volkswagon Jetta on Thursday. An hour or so after the team announced that they had signed outfielder Wil Myers to a 1-year deal with an option for 2024, they made another set of moves. This time they announced the signing of catcher Curt Casali for 2023 and an option for the 2024 season. His deal is for $3.25M, which includes a base salary of $2.5M and a $750,000 buyout if his option for 2024 isn’t agreed upon according to Mark Sheldon of Reds.com. To create room on the 40-man roster for him the team designated Mike Moustakas for assignment.
Let’s start with designating Mike Moustakas for assignment. It means that the end of Moustakas as a Red is upon us. After signing with the Reds prior to the 2020 season on a 4-year deal, Moustakas struggled to stay healthy and on the field. And perhaps related to that, he struggled to produce when he was on the field.
Moustakas hit .264/.325/.491 – good for a 114 OPS+ in the five seasons prior to joining the Reds. In his three seasons with Cincinnati he hit .216/.300/.383 – good for an OPS+ of just 80. That’s Billy Hamilton territory. With the move, the Reds will owe him $22M unless some team decides to claim him on waivers (the odds of this happening are about the same as you defeating Tyson Fury tonight and becoming the heavyweight champion of the world).
Now let’s talk about the signing of Curt Casali. He played with the Reds from 2018-2020 before signing with the Giants in 2021. Last season he played with both the Giants and the Mariners. After hitting .260/.345/.440 with Cincinnati in his three seasons he’s managed to hit just .207/.315/.342 since leaving. That’s an 83 OPS+, or basically the tiniest bit better than what Mike Moustakas hit while in Cincinnati.
Of course there’s a big difference between Mike Moustakas hitting that as a subpar defender/designated hitter, and a quality defensive catcher hitting that. Still, you would like to see a little more offense than that – even if it is coming from a catcher.
But what the Casali signing does is perhaps give a boost to Cincinnati’s offense in an indirect way. The Reds have Tyler Stephenson, Luke Maile, and Casali now on the 40-man roster and it seems like all three will be on the active roster if healthy. That would allow manager David Bell all kinds of flexibility in playing Stephenson at both first base or designated hitter on days where he’s not catching. Teams try to avoid that in most cases when they only have two catchers on the active roster just in case an injury occurs behind the plate. Getting more of Stephenson’s bat in the lineup almost assuredly will help out an offense that struggled in so many ways during 2022.
With Casali’s contract added to the books, the Reds payroll now sits at roughly $83M. And that also seems to be where it’s likely to stay, or at least it appears that way according to what general manager Nick Krall said to C. Trent Rosecrans of The Athletic.
When asked if there was more room in the budget for further acquisitions, #Reds GM Nick Krall said they’d “have to get creative” which is a way of saying not unless someone takes more money off of their books
— C. Trent Rosecrans (@ctrent) December 22, 2022