CINCINNATI -- Three of Reds general manager Walt Jocketty's more recent big offseason trades shared some common threads.
They were deals that no one on the outside saw coming.
They were deals made shortly after the Winter Meetings.
And the serious talks about making those deals happened during the Winter Meetings.
This year's Winter Meetings return to Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., Dec. 9-12 -- which last hosted the giant gathering of the baseball industry in 2010.
Over the last four years, the Reds made no transactions during the Meetings. But that doesn't mean big splashes didn't happen in December.
On Dec. 11, 2012, Cincinnati acquired the leadoff hitter it badly needed when Shin-Soo Choo came from the Indians in a three-way trade that sent outfielder Drew Stubbs to Cleveland and shortstop prospect Didi Gregorius to Arizona.
In 2011, the Reds were trying to upgrade their rotation and bullpen. On Dec. 17 of that year, right-handed starting pitcher Mat Latos arrived from the Padres in a big four-for-one trade. Top-end prospects Yonder Alonso, Yasmani Grandal and Brad Boxberger and veteran starting pitcher Edinson Volquez went to San Diego.
Six days later on Dec. 23, 2011, lefty reliever Sean Marshall was acquired from the Cubs for lefty starter Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and Minor League infielder Ronald Torreyes.
This offseason, the Reds have already been busy after making the postseason three of the last four years but not winning any playoff series. The makeover began in October when manager Dusty Baker was replaced by Bryan Price, who was promoted from pitching coach.
In November, the Reds made three smaller, but important, moves in the free-agent market. Catcher Brayan Pena signed a two-year, $2.275 million contract; utility player Skip Schumaker signed a two-year, $5 million contract and lefty reliever Manny Parra returned to the club's bullpen by agreeing to a two-year, $5.5 million deal.
Payroll limitations mean that no major free-agent splash is likely on the horizon. If the Reds go big again, a trade seems like the most possible avenue.
Choo is a free agent after one year in Cincinnati, which leaves the Reds possibly in need of another leadoff hitter if they decide prospect Billy Hamilton isn't ready just yet. The club would also like to boost its offense further down the lineup in some fashion.
Rumors have been plentiful that the Reds spent the early offseason looking to trade Brandon Phillips. The All-Star second baseman, who is owed $50 million over the next four years, could free up some payroll to address the other issues. But if the return isn't strong enough, the loss of Phillips could hamper the club both offensively and defensively.
The Reds have the benefit of depth in the most important area -- the rotation. Latos, Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey and Mike Leake are set to return. Lefty Tony Cingrani is the expected replacement for free agent Bronson Arroyo. Prospect Robert Stephenson is moving quickly up the system. Bailey is a year away from free agency and could be an interesting name to watch this month. And there is still a lingering question over whether Aroldis Chapman could be moved from closer to starter.
Based on their track record, a quiet Winter Meetings for the Reds would not be shocking. That's how Jocketty seems to like it.
It makes whatever move happens next just a little more stunning.