GM says Reds’ payroll will rise in 2012, but don’t expect big free agent signings

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General manager Walt Jocketty said earlier this week that the Reds will exercise their $12 million option on Brandon Phillips for next season and today he revealed that the team’s payroll will rise from the current $80 million mark.

“Our preliminary projections are that we’ll bump it up a little,” Jocketty told John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer. “We’re still working on the end number. But it will be more than it was this year.”

Fay speculates that the “bump” will be to around $85 million, which is why Jocketty replied “probably not” when asked about potentially pursuing big-name free agents. All but 12 teams have a payroll above $85 million this season.

If the Reds pick up their options on Phillips and closer Francisco Cordero that would put them at $68 million in commitments before factoring in arbitration raises and minimum-salaried players, so unless they cut Cordero loose Jocketty will be bargain shopping.

Astros talking to Justin Verlander, Gerrit Cole about extensions

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It’s extension season and Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros — who already agreed to an extension with Alex Bregman — are discussing contract extensions with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole.

Funny thing about Verlander, by the way: when he got his current $180 million deal, most people fell into the “oh, there’s an overpay!” column. What’s more, this past winter, when everyone was talking about how bad it is to give guys big long term deals, Verlander’s name was notably absent in the conversation despite the fact that his deal has turned out to be quite good. I suppose that says something about how good the anti-long-term deal folks are at cherrypicking.

That being said, Rosenthal says “it would be an upset” if either Verlander or Cole signed extensions. I can see that. Verlander is locked up this year and has a vesting option for 2020, and a lot can happen in a year or two. Cole is a Scott Boras client and Boras clients tend to hit the market rather than sign extensions. Perhaps their former teammate, Dallas Keuchel‘s, terrible experience on the free agent market this winter will alter that calculus. Hard to say.