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Are the Cincinnati Reds contenders?

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How did the Reds go from certain sellers to a huge deadline wildcard?

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The Reds have been an all-or-nothing team since the beginning of the season. We knew on Opening Day that if the Reds weren't going to be a contender, that they'd have a ton of desirable pieces and expiring contracts that they'd do well to unload to start rebuilding. Johnny Cueto could be the best pitcher available at the deadline if the Reds decide to make him so, and names like Mike Leake, Marlon Byrd, and Burke Badenhop all have expiring contracts that the Reds would do well to capitalize on if they pull the trigger on a rebuild.

Wait just one second? Are the Reds a playoff contender in 2015?

If you would have asked couple of weeks ago, the Reds' owner might have been the only one delusional to think that was the case, but the Reds have won their last 3 series. Despite missing key pieces, the Reds' offense has been one of the best in the division, and their young pitching has stepped up since getting rid of the dead weight of Jason Marquis and Kevin Gregg. That's led to tweets like this from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal:

That paired with Cincinnati hosting the All-Star game in a couple of weeks probably means that this question won't be answered until then, at least, but let's look at how things look today.

The Reds are currently 34-37. They're 13.5 games out of the division, which seems all but locked up by St. Louis at this point, but are a tempting 5 games away from a wild card spot. That's likely their only way into the postseason.

Their peripherals might not be so pretty, though. Fangraphs is projecting them to finish 76-86, which would definitely not be good for a playoff spot. Their playoff projection is even worse, too, with Fangraphs giving them a 1.2% chance of a wild card spot, even after their hot stretch. Is that worth bargaining the future for?

The biggest detriment to the Reds' chances is that both of the likely wild card teams lie in the same division, with the Pirates surging and the Cubs still right there. Both looked better than the Reds on paper coming into the season, and both have largely lived up to it, albeit in different ways; Pittsburgh with stars like Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, and the Cubs relying on their top farm system for talent with the likes of Kris Bryant and Addison Russell helping them win games.

Then again, you could make the argument that if the Reds can do their damage in the division, they could make up that ground. They're 15-16 in their division so far, and even if you take out their 1-5 record against the Cardinals, the fact that they're 9-9 combined against the Cubs and Pirates pretty much evens them out.

What should the Reds do? Should they wait before making any moves, or punt as soon as possible? Should they completely not sell at the deadline at all?

I asked this to SBNation's own Chris Cotillo, who did a chat earlier this morning:

red-sox-reporter

Awesome.