All of Reds' answers can be found within

All of Reds' answers can be found within

CINCINNATI -- The free-agent market isn't expected to be robust and their payroll flexibility isn't plentiful. That means the Reds will have to find the answers to winning in 2010 largely from within.

During a 2009 season loaded with roster attrition, the club tried to get a head start by giving extended opportunity to younger players like starting pitcher Homer Bailey, center fielder Drew Stubbs, shortstop Paul Janish and others. Many have good chances to be pivotal parts of the 2010 Reds.

"I think we feel pretty good based on what we've seen from our younger guys and the maturity they've had since they came up," Reds general manager Walt Jocketty said.

The Reds played their best baseball with Stubbs in the leadoff spot, as well as the July 31 trade acquisition of Scott Rolen at third base. They will have a chance to form a season-long chemistry with Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce.

"We'll have Scott Rolen all year," Reds manager Dusty Baker said. "We'll have Joey all year and guys that bounce back -- guys that didn't have their kind of years. I hope and pray we can keep our bullpen intact because that was our strength. Our defense is better. Our young guys have a couple of months under their belt, so they're not going to be in awe of anything next year."

The Reds' two biggest weaknesses this season were scoring runs and getting on base. A string of nine straight losing seasons can't end without more offense, but Jocketty felt the pieces for improvement were already at his disposal.

"I'm not sure there's a lot we'll add to make us a competitive club," Jocketty said. "The offense will depend on us getting better at run production, which can come with maturity and a full year of Rolen in the lineup."

Janish isn't locked in at shortstop and the Reds could probably use a starting pitcher to replace Edinson Volquez, who isn't expected back from Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery until well into next season. A run producer, last season's biggest unmet need, remains a desire this winter.

To fill those spots, don't expect the Reds to make a lot of Hot Stove coals burn with free-agent rumors. The club already has $61 million committed to returning players under multiyear contracts, including Francisco Cordero ($12 million), Aaron Harang ($12.5 million), Rolen ($11 million and Bronson Arroyo ($11 million). The 2009 payroll was $73 million.

"I think it will be kept to a minimum," Jocketty said of the Reds' interests in free agency. "I don't see us being very active with free agents. It's not a very strong free-agent market from what we see."

In the rotation, Johnny Cueto took another step with his maturation, and assuming his arm is rested all winter, he should be able to come back and be a candidate for 200 innings. Arroyo had the best stretch of his career during the second half. Harang is coming off of back-to-back subpar seasons and is needed to return to ace form. Bailey started to make good on his years of promise during August and September.

The bullpen -- headed by Cordero, Nick Masset and Arthur Rhodes in the late innings -- figures to be an asset again.

And the farm system has more resources to potentially offer the big league club next season. Outfielder Chris Heisey, infielder Todd Frazier and lefty starter Travis Wood made the move from Double-A to Triple-A and will be waiting in the wings. Ditto for 2008 top Draft pick and first baseman Yonder Alonso.

"When I got here, I said I was here for the long run and not the short run to build this thing into something -- a sustaining contender," Baker said. "It's what you want. Everybody wants quick fixes and overnight success. It happens sometimes, not all the time. When it happens, you have to have everything go right. It just didn't go right for us."

Here is where the Reds stand heading into the offseason:

Contract issues
Free agents: RHP Kip Wells.
Eligible for arbitration: Jonny Gomes, OF; Corky Miller, C; and Laynce Nix, OF. RHPs Nick Masset, Jared Burton and Micah Owings should have "Super 2" status to become eligible for arbitration.
Player options: None.
Club options: Ramon Hernandez, C, $8.5 million ($1 million buyout).

• Ryan Hanigan, .263, .361 BA, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs
• Corky Miller, .179 BA, 1 HR, 10 RBIs
• Craig Tatum, .162 BA, 1 HR, 6 RBIs
• Wilkin Castillo, .667 BA, 0 HR, 1 RBI

Should the Reds not bring back Hernandez, Hanigan has proven himself as a worthy regular catcher -- especially defensively. Offensively, he was middle of the road. Miller, who was with the Reds earlier in the decade, was brought back near the end of the season and did a fantastic job working with the staff.

First base
• Joey Votto, .322 BA, 25 HRs, 84 RBIs
• Kevin Barker, .281 BA, 0 HR, 3 RBIs

Votto followed up his strong rookie season with an even better sophomore year and established himself as the Reds' best hitter. The Reds started their fade while playing without Votto when he was on the disabled list in late May and June. Assuming his personal problems are behind him, he should be a steady presence in the No. 3 spot again.

Second base
• Brandon Phillips, .276 BA, 20 HRs, 98 RBIs

The Reds will again have one of their league's best hitting and fielding second basemen in Phillips. He's hit 20 homers and stole 20 bags in each of the past three seasons and is capable of driving in 100 runs. He's also durable -- he avoided the DL despite a broken finger on his throwing hand earlier in the 2009 season.

• Paul Janish, .211 BA, 1 HR, 16 RBIs
• Adam Rosales, .213 BA, 4 HRs, 19 RBIs
• Drew Sutton, .212 BA, 1 HR, 9 RBIs

The decision about the 2010 shortstop will be one of the key offseason storylines for the Reds. It's unlikely anyone can be an improvement defensively over Janish, who got an extended audition after the August trade of Alex Gonzalez. The question is whether the club can live with his low batting average.

Third base
• Scott Rolen, .270 BA, 3 HRs, 24 RBIs
• Juan Francisco, .429 BA, 1 HR, 7 RBIs

Rolen proved to be as advertised at both ends of the game and will get to have a full season in Cincinnati. The Reds won when he was in the lineup.

• Jay Bruce, .223 BA, 22 HRs, 58 RBIs
• Chris Dickerson, .275 BA, 2 HRs, 15 RBIs
• Drew Stubbs, .267 BA, 8 HRs, 17 RBIs
• Willy Taveras, .240 BA, 1 HR, 15 RBIs
• Jonny Gomes, .267 BA, 20 HRs, 51 RBIs
• Laynce Nix, .239 BA, 15 HRs, 46 RBIs
• Darnell McDonald, .267 BA, 2 HRs, 10 RBIs
• Wladimir Balentien, .264 BA, 3 HRs, 11 RBIs

Lots of outfield questions and there's no shortage of depth. Stubbs played himself into the inside track for center field and showed he can hit in the Majors. Dickerson is also in the picture, but injuries cost him. The big question is what happens to Taveras, a disappointment this season who is owed $4 million for 2010. Left field is also an unsettled situation.

• Aaron Harang, 6-14, 4.21 ERA, 162.1 innings, 142 strikeouts
• Bronson Arroyo, 15-13, 3.84 ERA, 220.1 innings, 127 strikeouts
• Johnny Cueto, 11-11, 4.41 ERA, 171.1 innings, 132 strikeouts
• Homer Bailey, 8-5, 4.53 ERA, 113.1 innings, 86 strikeouts
• Matt Maloney, 2-4, 4.87 ERA, 40.2 innings, 28 strikeouts
• Edinson Volquez, 4-2, 4.35 ERA, 49.2 innings, 47 strikeouts
• Micah Owings, 7-12, 5.34 ERA, 119.2 innings, 68 strikeouts
• Justin Lehr, 5-2, 5.37 ERA, 65.1 innings, 33 strikeouts

Arroyo was one of the league's best in the second half, and Cueto was strong down the stretch after his arm was properly rested. Bailey showed he belongs in the Majors with his late run of good starts. Harang has had two down seasons and will be facing a pivotal year. Without Volquez, who is expected to be out until midsummer recovering from elbow surgery, there will be an open spot to fill. Maloney and Lehr both gave the front office something to think about.

• Francisco Cordero, 2-6, 2.16 ERA, 39 saves
• Nick Masset, 5-1, 2.37 ERA
• Arthur Rhodes, 1-1, 2.53 ERA
• Jared Burton, 1-0, 4.40 ERA
• Daniel Ray Herrera, 4-4, 3.06 ERA
• Mike Lincoln, 1-1, 8.22 ERA
• Carlos Fisher, 1-1, 4.47 ERA
• Pedro Viola, 0-0, 5.140-0 ERA
• Ramon Ramirez, 0-0, 3.65 ERA

The bullpen has been the Reds' strength in the past two seasons, and with the entire cast expected back in 2010, it should be a plus for the Reds going into 2010. Masset and Herrera especially emerged as key setup men in the late innings.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.