A little help?... Reliever edition

USA TODAY Sports

The Reds still have a really good record, even though they lost just last night. But this is increasingly cold comfort as the Pirates and Cardinals continue to cakewalk toward July.

Maybe the help is already on the way. Chris Heisey returned last night (to the DH spot). Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall could both be back within two weeks or so. Ryan Ludwick could still resurface in August and Nick Masset might throw a few pitches this season.

Would that be enough to pass both the 'rates and the Cards - who are currently the two winningest teams in all baseball? I kinda doubt it. Heisey is somewhat unlikely to outperform the Robinson-Paul platoon. Broxton wasn't pitching much better than JJ Hoover when he hit the DL. Ludwick's return is still very much shrouded in mystery.

I think you can acknowledge all that without suddenly saying the Reds are doomed or need to melt down the farm to go get Justin Ruggiano or something. But that Wild-Card play-in game isn't going to avoid itself.

I wrote before that the Reds could use a right-handed reliever, a righty power bat and/or a back-up infielder. It would be great if they could get upgrades on all three, but they're not in a position to shed a ton of prospects.

Within reason, here's who they could target for the bullpen:

Righty relief pitchers

I followed a couple rules of thumb here, starting with the FanGraphs custom leaderboard of supposedly available relievers made by MLB Trade Rumors:

(1) No one too young, with too many years of control, making them costly in prospects
(2) No one with a huge contract, like Papelbon.
(3) No one with worse than a 4.00 xFIP, who might be headed for a 2nd half collapse. Too much risk of that already. (4) Let's not trade for a reliever with the Cubs again.

Wringing out the list of available relievers with those restrictions brought me to a tight ten (which you can see in more detail here):

David Aardsma
Burek Badenhop
Joba Chamberlain
Steve Cishek
Jesse Crain
LaTroy Hawkins
Chad Qualls
Francisco Rodriguez
Carlos Torres
Jose Veras

Of this group, Jesse Crain is probably having the best season - which means the asking price is going to get bid up. K-Rod is also going to have a lot of suitors, due to name recognition, being extremely good over 15 innings and on a minor league contract.

The best value, however, might be someone like David Aardsma. He's only pitched 8 (very good) innings this season, so who knows, but he's on a minor league contract. He could be had for cheap and replaced by Hoover if he breaks down.

Joba Chamberlin, meanwhile, would be INTERESTING, but probably not good.

There are also free agents, believe it or not. A few of them might actually be worh a look, though for all I know they're injured or have let themselves go (which is not necessarily a problem for a pitcher):

Guillermo Mota (34)
Juan Cruz (39)

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