To do that, of course, they had to write a big check to retain free-agent reliever Jonathan Broxton for three years at $21 million. It's expected that Broxton will move into the closer's role so Aroldis Chapman can shift into the rotation.
Of course the search for roster upgrades has not, nor will not, stop with Broxton in the fold. The Reds other main need is for a leadoff hitter.
"We have lots of things going on. We're juggling lots of balls in the air," Reds assistant general manager Bob Miller said. "We were happy we could come to an agreement quick with Jonathan. Everything worked out fine."
Reds general manager Walt Jocketty has generally avoided free-agent deals larger than Broxton's. So don't expect to hear Cincinnati to be involved with some of the larger names on the market.
Trades are another story, however. Especially with Chapman in the rotation, there is a potential odd man out in fifth starter Mike Leake and young starting pitching in the Minors. The Reds seem to have trade bait, and it might take moving some to check off more items on the shopping list.
Here is a quick look at the Reds' situation heading into the Winter Meetings, which begin Monday at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel in Nashville:
Leadoff hitter: Filling this spot has been elusive for the Reds the past several years. Jocketty has made no secret that this is the Reds' biggest offseason need. Michael Bourn, Angel Pagan and Shane Victorino are some of the biggest free agents that could assume this spot if signed. If their prices are high, as expected, Cincinnati will have to look at making a trade or stand pat and wait for top prospect Billy Hamilton's possible arrival in 2014.
Left fielder: Depending on how things shake out, this person could be one and the same as the leadoff hitter. But the preference is to re-sign 2012 left fielder Ryan Ludwick after his strong bounce-back year. Jocketty has previously said he doesn't want to go longer than a two-year deal with Ludwick, which means he might have to find a new run producer to fill this spot.
Bench help: It was an area where the Reds struggled last season as Miguel Cairo, Wilson Valdez and Willie Harris brought little to the plate offensively. Harris didn't last long into the season and both Cairo and Valdez departed after the season as free agents. Cincinnati needs some veteran offensive strength and also someone versatile defensively. Both Cairo and Valdez played several positions in the field.
Who they could trade:
RHP Leake: If Chapman moves into the rotation, as expected, Leake would most likely be the one on the outside looking in. After a very slow 0-5 start, he finished 8-9 with a 4.58 ERA in 30 starts. For teams desperate for starting pitching, they might like someone like Leake in the middle of a rotation.
CF Drew Stubbs: The Reds have been steadfastly behind Stubbs for the past two seasons as he struggled offensively, so it's hard to imagine they would deal him. But there is power lurking in that bat, speed in his feet and Stubbs is one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball.
Center fielder Hamilton, right-hander Daniel Corcino, left-hander Tony Cingrani, right-hander Robert Stephenson, shortstop Didi Gregorius, infielder Henry Rodriguez, first baseman Neftali Soto and right-hander Nick Travieso are just some of the organization's top prospects that could attract other clubs.
Rule 5 Draft:
The Reds' roster is currently at 38 players after the team non-tendered two players and signed Broxton, so there is space for someone to be selected in Thursday's Rule 5 Draft, which marks the conclusion of the Winter Meetings.
Big contracts they might unload: NoneArbitration eligible:
Right-hander Homer Bailey (second year), outfielder Chris Heisey (Super Two), right-hander Mat Latos (first year), right-hander Leake (first year), right-hander Logan Ondrusek (Super Two), right-hander Alfredo Simon (first year) and outfielder Stubbs (first year).
Payroll summation:The Reds, who don't discuss payroll issues publicly, already have 11 players under contract that carry a commitment of around $65 million. This is after they had a 2012 payroll of around $87 million. Add in a couple of possible smaller free-agent signings, plus resolving seven arbitration situations, and the 2013 payroll should creep into the low $90 million range.