COMMENTARY | If the Winter Meetings fall exactly right for the Cincinnati Reds, it won't mean that on-base machine Shin-Soo Choo has agreed to an exorbitant contract to become a fixture in Reds Country, and it won't mean that the Reds have traded ace-in-waiting Homer Bailey or flash-point second baseman Brandon Phillips. It will mean one thing and one thing only: David Price will be playing for the Reds in 2014 and 2015.
How It Can Happen
The Reds can make an offer the Rays would be foolish to refuse: Price for three budding superstars in speed demon center fielder Billy Hamilton, Price's immediate replacement in Tony Cingrani, and starting first baseman for the next five years in Donald Lutz.
The Rays would take that deal at the drop of a hat, and Reds Country would likely be more irate than anything else at both the dollar cost estimated at a total of nearly $30 million for Price's remaining two years of arbitration eligibility and the huge cost in three major league-ready prospects who would otherwise figure prominently in the Reds' plan for the next five years.
Can the Reds Afford the Payroll?
This would be the biggest question for the Reds. Price is expected to make more than $13 million in 2014 and possibly upwards of $17 million in 2014. The Reds could very well already be taxed beyond the brink with an estimated $105 million in 2014 payroll expected based on existing contracts and projected contracts for arbitration-eligible players.
How can the Reds possibly afford to shoulder another $13-14 million for 2014 and $16-17 million for 2015?
The payroll for 2015 might be a little easier to handle with the loss of Bailey and Aroldis Chapman to free agency, but the 2014 payroll would be the biggest obstacle for the Reds to trade for Price. If the offense were to remain one worthy of World Series contention, higher-salaried players like Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Brandon Phillips could not be traded. The Reds would be hard-pressed to find takers for high-priced contracts currently bogging the team down more than helping make the team better in those for Ryan Ludwick, Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall (a combined $20 million in base salary owed for 2014).
So if the Reds can find a way to afford Price, it will have to come from some other means than payroll slashing unless it did boil down to trading the likes of Bailey, Phillips, Chapman or fifth starter Mike Leake.
What Would It Mean?
The acquisition of Price by the Reds would mean that the Reds have the best rotation in baseball in 2014 and the most equipped for postseason success, especially if Leake were replaced in the rotation by Chapman for 2014.
A rotation of Price, Cueto, Latos, Bailey and Chapman may be as good as baseball has ever seen.
That would be all the motivation fin the world for the Reds to strike a deal for Price, even at the expense of leveraging the future and living on a big market binge for a couple of years.
Robb Hoff has worked as a freelance researcher for ESPN's production and news departments for the past five years. You can read his articles about the Reds here.
- Cincinnati Reds
- Homer Bailey
- Brandon Phillips