The Reds have no chance to win a pennant race this year, but they can win the race to the trade deadline. With the All-Star break just a month away, Cincinnati needs to start its rebuilding now.
The current team has several youngsters to build around, but there are also several veterans with huge contracts that prevent the Reds from bolstering its 2014 squad. There are several contenders who are looking to upgrade at spots where the Reds have desirable assets.
Since a team that is rebuilding has no need for a closer, Cincinnati should trade Aroldis Chapman. The Detroit Tigers, who have struggled to find closers for their recent failed attempts to win the World Series, are again desperate for a closer. The club signed All-Star free agent Joe Nathan over the winter, but his mere 13 saves and 7.04 earned run average have him on the verge of losing his closer role.
The fourth place Reds have no use for a closer, especially one who is eligible to double his current salary through arbitration at season’s end. The Tigers could package some top prospects to help form a solid foundation with young Reds like Devin Mesoraco and Billy Hamilton.
The ideal Detroit prospect for the Reds would be 23-year old second baseman Devon Travis, ranked at number two in the organization by Baseball America. Travis is just 5’9, but his ability to hit for average and power has drawn comparisons to Boston’s Dustin Pedroia.
The acquisition of Travis would allow the Reds to unload Brandon Phillips and his onerous contract to the Nationals. Battling Atlanta and even Miami in the National League East, Washington needs to make a strong attempt to live up to preseason expectations.
Their biggest deficiency is on offense, where they have ranked below the league average the past two seasons. Brandon Phillips would be a huge upgrade over David Espinosa or any of the other infielders who have been plugged in at second so far this year, and Washington would probably be willing to take on most of Phillips’s contract.
In return for Phillips, the Reds could acquire 19 year old third baseman Drew Ward or number four prospect Michael Taylor. Ward could eventually take over third in Cincinnati and allow Todd Frazier to fill the void in left field.
Taylor is more polished and probably ready for the big leagues now. The shortstop turned outfielder would provide the Cincinnati lineup with the right handed power complement they have lacked between Joey Votto and Jay Bruce.
No team wants to go through the rebuilding process, but Cincinnati must now face that reality. The organization has exhausted its payroll to keep its core players, who have now become aging and/or damaged goods.
Its best two players this year have been Hamilton and Mesoraco, youngsters who make the Reds solid up the middle. Now is the time to replenish the farm system and embark on what could be a short-term rebuilding stage, if the club is willing to admit that this current team is not going to win a World Series in 2014 or any year after that.