A report appeared last night that the Detroit Tigers are preparing to deal ace pitcher David Price and OF Yoenis Cespedes. The Tigers are 46-46, 9.5 games out of first place in the AL Central and 4 games behind for the second wild card slot. Whether they become sellers or not is a hotly contested debate with compelling arguments on both sides of Woodward Avenue.

Buster Olney (ESPN) and Jayson Stark (ESPN) discussed this morning the impact of Price’s availability on the trade market for Johnny Cueto.

Olney characterized the development as a “direct body blow” to the Reds. He criticized the Reds for being “too slow with this all summer” and “not decisive.” Stark brought up questions about Cueto’s elbow from his missed start earlier this year and his being bumped back one start. Cueto’s six-walk, low-velocity performance last weekend forced teams to take a closer look. Stark said another executive expressed concern about Cueto’s “command, velocity, pitch mix” from his most recent start. Olney said the Phillies have taken a lot of flack for their dithering, but the Reds have “been just as bad.” He said it “could have a real impact on the Reds.”

Deep breath.

1. It’s not clear the Tigers will be sellers. If they win the next few games it would be difficult for their front office to justify bailing on the season to their fans and 87-year-old owner Mike Illich, who desperately wants to win a World Series. Mike Maffie texted me that it’s time to become Detroit fans until the deadline. Go Tigers!

2. Walking and chewing gum. But the leak about the Tigers does highlight they are drawing up contingency plans and being pro-active about laying the foundation for a trade if they decide to make one. It shows a major league team can act on two tracks at once – being sellers or not being sellers. That’s in contrast with the Reds who apparently didn’t entertain even preliminary discussions on Cueto, Leake, Byrd etc. until after the ASG and are, even now, only in listening mode according to one report. The Phillies organization has been the laughing stock of the baseball analyst commentariat for a couple years. Now the Reds are mentioned in the same breath. Let’s hope success at 100 Joe Nuxhall Way the next two weeks puts an end to that.

3. Cole Hamels won’t affect the Cueto market much. The market for Hamels is smaller than the one for Cueto. Hamels has three more years of expensive team control left on his at-value contract. It’s believed only the Dodgers and Cubs have enough quality prospects for the Phillies to accept for their ace. On the other hand, Cueto will make only 12-15 starts for his next team and will come much more cheaply. Although the winner of the Cueto sweepstakes will have the sole ability to negotiate a longer deal with the pitcher until he becomes a free agent. Nagging questions have also popped up about Hamels because his last two starts have been pretty bad.

4. Much ado about (probably) nothing. Are teams making too much of one or two starts from Cueto? Yes and no. Yes, Johnny Cueto has a long, successful track record from which to draw. But trade partners will be asked to give up at least one top prospect for a short-term return. Cueto’s recent struggle – if that’s even what it was – may be seen by potential trade partners as being more closely tied to his performance the next two months than if a team was considering offering him a long-term contract. Opposing GMs can’t ignore any evidence. But they also want to win the World Series, and Johnny Cueto still pushes that button.

5. It only takes one. Barring any new developments – Cueto missing another start or having another poor one next weekend – Johnny Cueto will be traded and the return for the Reds should be excellent. Despite the doubts, the market will still be there. In the end, at least a dozen teams have strong interest in Cueto and David Price can only pitch for one of them. A few may be spooked by the health concerns, but it only takes one other team to make a trade and two to cause a bidding war.

The market (and news) may slow down, however. The Reds have been the ones dragging their feet so far, but now it’s possible they’ll find that suitors interested in Price may want to wait a week or more to see if he’s on the market.