COMMENTARY| It's hard not to watch the press conference announcing the Cincinnati Reds signing of Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman without laughing about how much smarter Reds general manager Walt Jocketty is than many of his peers. The Reds completely flew under the radar before shocking the baseball world with the signing of the Cuban Missile.
Such brilliant stealth could be lurking once again.
Reds ownership under Bob Castellini has shown the willingness to sacrifice young talent to acquire key pieces both short-term and long-term like Mat Latos, Jonathan Broxton, Sean Marshall and Shin-Soo Choo. The Castellini group has also shown the resolve to bolster payroll to an organizationally unprecedented -- and perhaps completely saturated -- level.
A couple external factors have to take shape before the Rays would even be willing to trade Price with two years of arbitration eligibility left: the Rays have to be out of contention by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and any deal has to be sweeter than sweet to get the Rays to give up Price for the 2014 and 2015 seasons, even at the likely price upward of $25-million for those two years combined.
As for the Reds, they get some payroll relief with a drop in the 2013 salary for first baseman Joey Votto from $19-million to $12-million, as well as the imminent free agency of Bronson Arroyo and Choo. The contract extension Arroyo signed in 2010 includes $15-million in deferred money payable in annual installments through 2021, but the Reds should still realize about $5-million in actual payroll drop from his $6.5-million salary for 2013. Nearly $4-milion more will be saved in the Reds share of the 2013 salary for Choo.
However, the savings and more will be consumed quickly by salary increases for other players under contract, as well as arbitration-eligible players.
All told, the Reds should be facing a $110-million range in 2014 payroll commitment, which won't give the small-market team much maneuvering to acquire a pricey pitcher like Price.
Unless of course, the Rays like what they're offered and are willing to help the Reds offset an equal amount of salary for what it would cost to pay Price.
It would fill five key positions for the Rays at the cost of one ace, and for the Reds the acquisition of Price would provide a front-end playoff rotation of Price, Cueto and Latos through 2015. Talk about trading Price has already started, but the Reds might be able to fly beneath the radar once again and jerk the carpet out from underneath the baseball world once again.
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 2012 Reds season here.