The Reds have many things going for them right now. They play in an NL Central that has only one other foe -- the Cardinals -- that is seriously in the hunt. And they don't currently have any glaring holes that would keep them contending with St. Louis in the second half.Offensively, the Reds lead the league in hitting, and have gotten strong production from their key people. Defensively, they lead the NL in fielding percentage. The rotation has come together, and has often delivered solid performances from the first through fifth spots. Edinson Volquez is pitching well in the Minors, and his return from Tommy John surgery around the All-Star break will be like trading for a pitcher. Homer Bailey is also considered not too far away from his return from a shoulder injury. In other words, don't expect the Reds to make a move to get Cliff Lee from the Mariners. "We'll do what we can to improve our club," general manager Walt Jocketty said recently. "We're looking at pitching. I don't know how many bullets we're going to have, so we'll have to be careful how we use them." If a trading "bullet" is fired, it would likely be for the bullpen. Although it improved on the last road trip, it's been a trouble spot much of the season -- with the exception of lefty Arthur Rhodes. With Daniel Ray Herrera pitching inconsistently, left-handed help could be useful -- even with injury-prone Bill Bray back from Tommy John surgery, having performed well in the Minors. Right-hander Nick Masset is showing signs of turning around from his struggles, but it wouldn't hurt to shore up the late innings, especially since there is really no help available at Triple-A. But the system has depth in several other areas, and many prospects are near Major League ready. Lefty slugging first baseman Yonder Alonso, the eighth overall Draft pick in '08, is blocked by Joey Votto. Lefty slugging third baseman Juan Francisco is similarly blocked by Scott Rolen. Starting pitchers, like lefty Travis Wood, could draw interest. On the other hand, if the Reds hit an extended slump, or have a total free fall in the next two or three weeks -- especially during a three-city, 11-game trip through Chicago, New York and Philadelphia, heading into the All-Star break -- they might be behooved to think about selling. Starting pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Aaron Harang are in the final years of their contracts and have expensive club options for 2011. Both veterans are often in the rumor mill this time of year and this year should be no different.
Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.