My job is to write about baseball, particularly the Cincinnati Reds farm system. A big part of all of this is reading a bunch of baseball sites. I am checking out Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, Minor League Ball, some Reds related message boards as well as Redleg Nation and Red Reporter for their coverage. Last night the pool allotments came out for the 2016 draft and the 2016-17 international signing period and the Reds have the highest draft pool and the second highest international pool.

We knew that the Reds would have high amounts by comparison to other teams simply because of their record in the 2015 season. While the draft comes with incredibly harsh penalties for going over your allotment of pool money, things are far less strict on the international market. While you will lose the ability to sign players in the next period or two, you can load up on anyone in that given period with the penalty simply being more money paid to Major League Baseball. It’s a system that many teams have taken full advantage of every few years and signing big crops of top end talent, then sitting out for a year or two. The Cincinnati Reds have not been one of those teams to this point in time.

That seemed to be changing in January when Jesse Sanchez reported that the Reds had agreed to a $6M deal with Cuban shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez. The deal would have put the Reds over their limit and made them ineligible to sign anyone for the next two seasons for over $300,000. It also would have cost them nearly $6M as a penalty to Major League Baseball. Here we are five weeks later and the signing still hasn’t happened. Earlier today Dave Cameron at Fangraphs held a chat and he addressed the Reds situation with Rodriguez by saying this:

Rick: Any chance the Worst Transactions post will be updated to reflect that the Reds’ cited international signing didn’t actually happen?

Dave Cameron: The Reds haven’t announced it yet; that’s very different from it not happening. Sanchez/Badler don’t get stuff like this wrong.

While I didn’t see the chat until after it was already over, it’s worth noting that while I absolutely believe that Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com and Ben Badler of Baseball America are EXCELLENT at their jobs and are easily the two most reliable sources in the game today for international prospect news, it’s not exactly correct to say that they don’t get stuff like this wrong. They have. Back in July of 2013 Ben Badler reported that the Cincinnati Reds had agreed to sign left handed pitcher Luis Tejada for $600,000. At the time, that would have been a very significant signing bonus (prices have gone up over the past few years). It turns out that the Reds didn’t sign Tejada and unless he changed his name, no other team ever signed him either. I have no doubt that Badler had good information given to him, but it turned out that it wasn’t correct.

Update from the man (Ben Badler) himself:

The report of the Reds having an agreement to sign Luis Tejada was correct. He never played for the Reds because the contract was not approved, which is not uncommon for signings in Latin America.

The overall point remains that while we will often hear about teams and players agreeing to contracts, and again, in the case of guys like Badler and Sanchez who are about as well connected on this stuff as anyone, they were probably given reliable information about the agreements being in place – things happen with these kinds of deals that we don’t see too often with draft picks and while the report may have been correct, the signing never actually takes place.

This brings everything back to the initial report that the Reds had agreed to a deal with Alfredo Rodriguez back in January. There are a few theories about what has happened. The first, of course, is that this was just an incorrect report and the two sides didn’t have an agreement in place. The second theory is that the two sides did agree to a deal, but that the Reds talked Rodriguez into waiting until the July 2nd signing period to sign as it would save them money in the long run. The third theory is simply that they were close to a deal but haven’t worked out the particulars to finalize it just yet.

With how the Cincinnati Reds front office has spoken publicly about how they have a large budget in the 2016 signing period, it would be downright shocking to see the team sign Rodriguez before the next signing period begins. The 2016 international signing period could be a perfect time for the Reds to go all-in. As has been noted, on the international market the penalties for going over your allotment of money isn’t quite as stringent as it is for the draft, at least initially. That really comes into play for 2016 for a few reasons.

The 2016-2017 signing period has ten teams ineligible to sign players for more than $300,000. The Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Royals, Angels, Diamondbacks, Rays, Red Sox, Yankees and Blue Jays all fall into that category. That’s important as the Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Rays, Red Sox and Yankees have been very big spenders in the past – more so than just going a few million over their budgets. Having those teams out of the running for premium players is huge for teams that may not be able to compete directly against the kind of money that they can throw around.

With the Reds having the second highest allotment of international money, it will limit the penalties that they would have to pay if they go over their budget compared to some other teams. There’s also a secondary part to this: After the 2016 season the Collective Bargaining Agreement is up and a new one will be negotiated and there are expectations that the international signing rules will be re-written and will then erase penalties that will keep teams from signing players moving forward from past seasons. While that is just a rumor at this point, teams do appear to be preparing to operate as if that is going to happen.

The Reds have cleared a lot of payroll space this offseason and they’ve got a big budget for the signing period. They’ve also publicly spoken about how much they have to spend, something that they typically don’t do. This would lead one to believe that they have a plan, whether that includes Alfredo Rodriguez or not, for the upcoming signing period. We know that they’ve been interested in several players that would have pushed them over their limit in the past, so it would seem that it’s not the penalties on their own that has kept them from going all out, but more likely that they simply were outbid by teams who had a higher belief in the players worth. When July 2nd rolls around, the Reds will likely find themselves in a great spot to do something that they haven’t been able to do in quite a while and show off their muscles in an amateur player market. The stars may be aligning for them to do just that, and it seems that they understand it. Hopefully the team not only understands it, but is also able to execute the plan and really set themselves up into the future.