The trade deadline is still 40 days a way, so we're still wandering in the desert here - with not much in between the dry sagebrush of Jonathan Papelbon rumors. Still, with no indication that the three-way dogfight in the Central is letting up, the Reds have to be thinking about how to eek out an advantage without unnecessarily depleting a farm system that's currently very thin at the upper levels.
Maybe that's an impossible task. But Walt is going to have to try. At the risk of mixing earth science and military metaphors, he's fighting a two-front war here. As a few recent shutouts and periodic bullpen meltdowns have shown, the team could use a little help.
Tony Cingrani is a major boost to the bullpen, but he's also the team's 6th starter. And even if the Big Five stay healthy for the rest of the season, keeping him in the bullpen could be counterproductive for a guy who's working on getting a groundball pitch.
With the puzzling situation of the bullpen in mind, I came up with three positions where the team should be looking as they lurch into July. Also worth keeping in mind is the fact that the Reds don't have much on offer from their farm system right now and can't afford to trade away anyone who might do some decent starting pitching this season (or probably next). So any of the big ticket guys are out.
Cingrani is up, Marshall is hopefully back in three weeks or less and Parra - at the very least - striking out a lot of guys. Chapman also throws lefthanded, for good measure. So righties seem like a bigger need. The boss righty (Broxton) is out, while Hoover has been struggling. Since Hoover has options, the 'pen could accomodate another righthander AND add to depth. Knowing the limitations, it's probably a guy like the Astros' Jose Veras or Chad Qualls of the Marlins. Underwhelming, but helpful toward stabilizing things.
Right-handed power bat
The Reds bench - that is, including both Paul and Robinson - currently has two switch-hitters and three lefties. And very little power. The picture will probably change when Heisey is healthy, but it's never clear how much he (a righty) actually hits left-handers and whether we can expect any power from him. Hannahan and his two-year contract probably aren't going anywhere and there's not likely to be much power from getting a new back-up SS, so this will probably be a platoony outfielder on a bad team or one with a logjam.
I said Hannahan isn't going anywhere. And the team can get by with two offensive zeroes among the back-up infielders (just like it did last year). But it really seems like this season is going to require more tree-shaking and arbitraging than last year. Jack Hannahan has a .205/.272/.274 batting line. Cesar Izturis is doing a fake-sounding .164/.243/.194