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Rotation, relievers are Reds' top 2018 priority

Cincinnati in need of workhorse starters to transition out of rebuild period
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- Although the Reds exhibited patience during a rebuild that has consumed all of three seasons and part of a fourth, they would like to shed that mode and transition into legitimate contenders in the National League Central.

Three-straight 90-plus-loss seasons means there is still much work to be done by general manager Dick Williams and the front office. Manager Bryan Price had his 2018 option exercised, and his entire coaching staff was invited back. They hope they can see their work with a young team pay off by contending again -- something that hasn't happened since their 2013 NL Wild Card berth.

CINCINNATI -- Although the Reds exhibited patience during a rebuild that has consumed all of three seasons and part of a fourth, they would like to shed that mode and transition into legitimate contenders in the National League Central.

Three-straight 90-plus-loss seasons means there is still much work to be done by general manager Dick Williams and the front office. Manager Bryan Price had his 2018 option exercised, and his entire coaching staff was invited back. They hope they can see their work with a young team pay off by contending again -- something that hasn't happened since their 2013 NL Wild Card berth.

One constant in the offseason is change, and there will likely be some on Cincinnati's roster. Here's a look at where the Reds stand heading into the offseason:

Reds remain in rebuild mode in streaky 2017

Biggest needs

1. Starting pitching: The Reds used 16 different starting pitchers in 2017, due to injuries to some veterans and the struggles of their coveted crop of rookies. While Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson provided hope and Anthony DeSclafani and Homer Bailey are expected to be healthy, there is no sure-thing, 200-inning starter among them.
Possible free-agent fits: It's a weak starting-pitcher market as it is, but depending on the prices, it's possible the club will have some money to spend for this need. But don't expect top-of-the-market names. Instead, think more like Doug Fister, Derek Holland and Jaime Garcia.

Video: PIT@CIN: Iglesias retires Luplow to end the game

2. Bullpen: Only two relievers earned a role for next season -- Raisel Iglesias is locked in as the closer and Wandy Peralta as the lefty setup man. Most of the remaining roles likely will be filled from within, including starter prospects, but it wouldn't hurt to have experienced depth after Cincinnati's bullpen finished with the most innings pitched in baseball.
Possible free-agent fits: Sergio Romo, Jason Motte, Pat Neshek and Tyler Clippard.

Gray areas

1. Second base: Scooter Gennett proved to be the waiver-claim surprise of the year with his career year for Cincinnati. Gennett is under club control for two more years, but there are some things that will need to be sorted out. Entering the year, Dilson Herrera -- acquired from the Mets in the 2016 Jay Bruce trade -- was expected to lay claim to second base. A right shoulder injury derailed those plans, and Herrera will be in Spring Training next year, out of Minor League options.

Video: Gennett launches four grand slams in 2017 season

At some point, top prospect Nick Senzel could be called up if he is ready. Senzel is generally a third baseman, but he has experience at second base. If Eugenio Suarez is locked in at third, could Senzel play second base? And what becomes of Gennett?

2. Corner outfield: Right fielder Scott Schebler and left fielder Adam Duvall displayed major power numbers, but both also endured second-half swoons. Meanwhile, rookie Jesse Winker came up and produced as expected, even showing a little more power than he had in the Minors. Could the Reds employ some sort of four-outfielder rotation -- along with center fielder Billy Hamilton -- next season, or might they try to move one of the veteran corner outfielders so Winker can play every day?

X-factors

1. Zack Cozart: Signs point to the longtime shortstop departing as a free agent, especially after a career year, but not so fast. The first-time All-Star and his family also love Cincinnati and the organization. At age 32, Cozart wants to win while playing for a contender and also take advantage of his opportunity to be compensated. However, the market for shortstops was quiet last winter, and that factored into the Reds' inability to trade him then or at the Deadline. Cozart also has had some leg injuries each of the last three seasons.

Video: CIN@MIL: Cozart smacks a solo homer to left-center

While Jose Peraza would be the heir apparent, he still has much to prove. Perhaps there is a scenario where Cozart and the Reds find a way for him to extend his stay for a couple of more years while the system grooms other shortstops in the Minors.

2. Dick Williams: The Reds' general manager took control of baseball operations last winter, and he showed he wasn't afraid to make some bold moves. In January, he traded the team's best starter of 2016 -- Dan Straily -- to the Marlins for three players that included Castillo. Like Gennett, Straily was a waiver-claim success story for Cincinnati. Williams could buy low and sell high again with Gennett.

Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. Follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Cincinnati Reds