If Ken Rosenthal's sources have been well sourced, the Cincinnati Reds may already be as much to $17 million dollars over their budgeted payroll for the 2015 season, and other teams are well aware of that fact.
Sources: #Reds drawing heavy interest in Chapman as well as Cueto. Teams know that CIN needs to cut payroll - $17M is the current estimate.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 10, 2014
For reference, the 2014 Miami Marlins had an entire payroll of just $41 million. Oh, brother.
So now the Reds are not only trying to trade pitchers in a market where every other team in baseball also has arms on the trade block, they're doing it while every other team in the league can see the cards they hold. The number of quality starters currently available - Jon Lester all the way down - has stalled the market for the one asset the Reds hoped to bargain with, and their margins may force them into trading one or both of Johnny Cueto or Aroldis Chapman to help close that gap (as those two will combine to make roughly that same amount of money in 2015).
Not to mention, of course, that they'd have to find adequate replacements for them while still searching for a starting LF, a 4th OF, and a decent bench bat for next to nothing after that. That means either trading the two All Stars for pre-arb, major league ready players that can help the 2015 win for league minimum, or taking what they can get that costs next to nothing...prospects not yet ready for the majors. Unfortunately, the first scenario will be nearly impossible to pull off, and the second means that 2015 sure looks to be a really lean year on the winning front.
While it's no surprise that the Reds are considering offers on Cueto, Chapman, Jay Bruce, and some of their other best players in order to fill pressing needs elsewhere on the roster, it's a rather gigantic surprise to find that the Reds are that significantly over their projected budget. After a team record payroll of just over $112 million in 2014 and a glut of high priced regulars making growing salaries still on the books for 2015, a reallocation was expected, but not at a deficit quite like this one seems. Obviously, we can't be certain about the actual accounting of things without seeing their books firsthand, but there's still a chance that said budget includes an allocated $10 million for the outfield, in which case this is nothing more than saying what we've known all along, which is that the Reds need to move pitching to be able afford a move they know they need to make.
Here's to hoping they've already set aside money that hasn't yet been put to one particular player, and that it's not a case where the Reds have to trade two of their better players at a bargain rate because they've got a poorly balanced roster.