The Reds have been a middling team getting only modest results in the win column this season. Yet they are very much in the hunt to repeat as National League Central champions. Like they have in the past, general manager Walt Jocketty and manager Dusty Baker have demonstrated maximum patience. But as the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline approaches, it's historically been a good time to make upgrades to boost a club. Sometimes that's easier said than done, especially with the current landscape.
"Right now, I was talking to our scouts, it's very quiet," Jocketty said. "There's little talk going on. The GMs I've talked to have said the same thing. There's not much happening." Blame parity, as 20 Major League clubs are currently contending in their respective divisions. Several more teams are still on the cusp and not ready to wave the white flag. "Clubs that are borderline don't want to give up players, because they're still trying to win games," Jocketty said. "It's getting harder and harder to make deals midseason, because clubs are trying to sell tickets and get people to come to the ballpark, and they don't want to dismantle their clubs and erode their fan base. It makes it tough." The Reds are the NL leaders in runs scored and rank high in batting average, but there is room for improvement. The club does not have an everyday left fielder, although the three-way mix-and-match system of Jonny Gomes, Fred Lewis and Chris Heisey has stepped up offensively lately. At shortstop, Paul Janish and Edgar Renteria haven't hit well, and neither player has a home run yet this season. Regarding the pitching staff, the rotation ranks near the bottom among NL staffs in ERA, but it has also come on lately. Johnny Cueto has emerged as a No. 1-type starter, but the Reds lack an experienced or undisputed ace. Rumors that the Reds have kicked the tires on Padres left fielder Ryan Ludwick and Mets shortstop Jose Reyes are false, according to Jocketty. He indicated the time hasn't come yet for an aggressive move. "Right now, I don't know if there's anybody out there that makes sense for us," he said. "There are a lot of rumors about guys being available, but that's not necessarily true. And if they are, the price tags are ridiculous." The Reds made no Deadline deals last season, but Jocketty wasn't sitting on his hands either. He aggressively engaged the Mariners last July in trade talks for left-handed ace Cliff Lee. Although what was offered in return was never revealed, Cincinnati's package of players and prospects was viewed as attractive. Lee ended up going to the Rangers and helped Texas reach the World Series. Even though Jocketty normally plays his intentions very close to the vest, he conceded that changes could more likely come from within the organization rather than a trade. The Reds have a vast wealth of hitters at Triple-A Louisville who have made good cases that they deserve promotions. Up to this point, there has been no vacancy on the roster for shortstop Zack Cozart, slugger Yonder Alonso, outfielder Dave Sappelt or catcher Devin Mesoraco. Other prospects waiting for another call back to the big leagues include Todd Frazier and Juan Francisco. "My first priority would probably be to go from within the organization before we go outside," Jocketty said. "It makes more sense, both from the standpoint that the guys have worked hard and deserve an opportunity, but also economically, it makes more sense." Of course, those same prospects could serve as attractive trade chips if the Reds were so inclined. Trying to stick with a long-term plan of stability and contending, the club has been resistant about moving its top young talent. "We've hit a lull right now, but we still feel the guys we have are capable of playing," Jocketty said. "We've got a few guys that are about to pick it up, we'll see what happens."