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With needs to fill, Reds intriguing to watch

With needs to fill, Reds intriguing to watch

With needs to fill, Reds intriguing to watch
CINCINNATI -- Money might be tight, but the Reds have a wealth of young talent and prospects that teams would love to trade for.

And despite Cincinnati's recent track record for being quiet at the Winter Meetings, the Reds should be an intriguing team to watch next week in Dallas.

First, this is a team motivated to win now after a disappointing 2011 in which the club came nowhere close to defending its National League Central title.

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Second, the Reds might not be serious players on the free-agent market, but they still have needs to fill. The best way to achieve those goals could be via trades, and this is an organization loaded around its Minor League affiliates. To land its primary need of a top-end starting pitcher, Cincinnati would have to part with those trade chips.

Whether or not Reds general manager Walt Jocketty pulls the trigger is the cliffhanger.

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Below is another look at the Reds' offseason checklist:

Starting pitcher: Forget pricey free agents like C.J. Wilson, but the Reds want someone for either the Nos. 1 or 2 spots of their rotation. This person certainly won't come cheaply in a trade, but don't be stunned when if a pitcher is acquired, he is someone younger and under club control contractually so the team can moderate the expense.

Closer: This became a need once Cincinnati could not agree to an extension with Francisco Cordero before he became a free agent. The Reds declined Cordero's $12 million option and they won't want to spend anywhere near as much to bring Cordero back or to sign one of the numerous veterans also on the open market.

Extend Brandon Phillips: Talks have been ongoing since a few days before the end of the regular season, and there has been progress. As of early this week, a deal was not near and Jocketty didn't expect one to happen this weekend before going to Dallas. Talks will likely continue during the Winter Meetings. Phillips already had his $12 million club option for next season picked up, so he'll be in the lineup. But Phillips, who can be a free agent next winter, wants a long-term contract and could be an unhappy camper if he goes into the season without one.

Left field: The preference probably would be for this person to be right-handed with some power. But whether this is a true need or not depends largely on what becomes of prospect Yonder Alonso, despite the fact he is left-handed. If the club doesn't trade Alonso, he and Chris Heisey likely form the tandem there next season.

Shortstop: Rookie Zack Cozart has the inside track, but a veteran shortstop might be needed as insurance to replace Edgar Renteria, who is a free agent.

Who the Reds can or need to trade:

LF/1B Yonder Alonso: The Reds will certainly be fielding calls on Alonso, since he is a promising young hitter being moved out of his comfort zone at first base to left field.

3B Juan Francisco: Francisco is out of options and a robust power hitter who is improving defensively. He is blocked by Scott Rolen, but Rolen is in the final year of his contract and had trouble staying on the field last year, which also makes Francisco a nice luxury to keep around.

C Yasmani Grandal: The Reds' first-round Draft pick in 2010, Grandal reached Triple-A at the very end of this past season. But with top prospect Devin Mesoraco breaking into the Majors in September and a good bet to make the club behind the plate in 2012, teams might try to inquire about Grandal's availability.

Top prospects:

Alonso, Francisco, Grandal, Cozart, SS Billy Hamilton, IF Todd Frazier, IF Chris Valaika, RHP Daniel Corcino, SS Didi Gregorius, RHP Brad Boxberger, RHP Robert Stephenson

Big contracts they might unload: None

Arbitration eligible: LHP Bill Bray, RHP Edinson Volquez, RHP Nick Masset, RHP Homer Bailey, SS Paul Janish, RHP Jose Arredondo

Non-tender candidates (deadline is Dec. 12): SS Paul Janish

Payroll summation:

The Reds don't make their payroll figure goals public, but they were at around $80 million in 2011 and $76 million in '10. Being in the mid-$80 million range seems to be a realistic estimate for Cincinnati this coming year.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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