Now that the last major hurdle to the post-season is past (at Philadelphia, St. Louis, and the first game at Arizona) with a 4-4 break, it seems reasonable to assume that the Reds will finish with something in the neighborhood of 94-95 wins and might even beat out the Cardinals for the Central. But they aren't going very far in the playoffs, maybe one round. A good season, but a slightly underachieving one--largely due to Drew Stubbs' presence in the lineup at #1 or #2. You can't have a player who strikes out almost 1/3 of the time in either spot. Just pitiful and embarrassing in that one game against St. Louis It's Dusty Baker being stubborn and Stubbs being willful. A guy with his talent should have learned to bunt years ago, but he hasn't because he thinks he's of himself as a home run hitter. Anyone want to spell S-E-L-F-I-S-H? I have not sympathy for him and the Reds are going to be surprised (or maybe they already know) how little value he is going to have in the off-season market.
Nevertheless, the solution to the problem for next year is hiding in plain sight, and doesn't involve a roster change. Here's how the Reds move into a dominant, 100+ victories posture for the foreseeable future, challenging the Phillies (I hope nobody believes they're a sub-.500 team), Cardinals, and Nationals in 2013 and beyond.
1) Mike Leake doesn't throw hard enough to be a consistent winning pitcher in the National League. Sorry, but that's just a fact. He get by on guile every once in a while, but gets lit up more often. However, he is a superb athlete. He's fast, he fields well, his has an adequate arm for the outfield, and he's a really good contact hitter. Spend the winter turning him into the Reds' center fielder and lead-off man.
2) Over the winter, sign or resign Broxton or Madson, or maybe both depending up health issue.
3) Move Chapman to the starting rotation. You give a little away with a non-automatic saver in the ninth, but not so much as to balance the upside of this move (which you can always undo if it isn't working).
Look at what the lineup looks like with these three moves:
Lineup: 1. Leake (CF); 2) Phillips (2B); 3) Votto (!B); 4) Bruce (RF) (Let's hope he stops dropping balls. How many All Stars have you ever heard of who just plain dropped two easy fly balls in the same season that cost their teams w's?); 5) Ludwick-Heisey (LF); 6. Frazier-Rolen; (3B), Hanigan-Mesoraco (C); Cozart (SS).
Additional bench: Cairo, Valdez, Paul, and Stubbs (assuming he can't be moved)--with Hamilton in the wings.
Starters: 1) Cueto; 2) Latos; 3) Chapman; 4) Bailey; 5) Arroyo (or 4 and 5 reversed)
Closer: Braxton or Madson
Long and 8th: the five best of Arredondo, Bray, Hoover, LeCure, Marshall, Masset, Ondrusek, Simon, and whoever distinguishes himself in Florida next spring.
That looks like a real Big Red Machine to me.
BTW: 1) Has it occurred to everyone how injuries have been a blessing in disguise in 2012? Votto's leading to the emergence of Ludwick and Frazier and Madson to Chapman's? 2) Since Chapman hit Andrew McCutchen, he's 18 for 82 and the Pirates are 8-15. Just an interesting fact.