Reds eye 'pen help, veteran starter at Meetings

December 1st, 2016

CINCINNATI -- The Reds don't get into bidding wars and they rarely spend big in the free-agent market. They are also often wont to seek bargains on the open market later in the offseason. But they aren't afraid to make trades to get what they need.

And that's why Cincinnati could be a team to watch at next week's Winter Meetings.

Hot Stove Tracker

Still in rebuilding mode -- but hoping to be near its end -- the Reds and general manager Dick Williams are looking to bolster weaknesses and create regular playing opportunities for some of their younger players. and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. ET.

Club needs

Bullpen help: Reds relievers combined for a 5.09 ERA, second worst in the Major Leagues, and they led both leagues in home runs and walks allowed. Although and brought some stability to the late innings, the Reds would like to add help in high-leverage situations with relievers who can stretch over multiple innings.

A veteran starter: Cincinnati is comfortable with a rotation that includes , , and . But with a lot of prospects already set to compete for the lone opening, the club wouldn't mind having a veteran pitcher and innings-eater in the battle. The fine line to straddle, however, is this pitcher would have to understand that he might become a bullpen member if one of the younger prospects is ready to start right away.

Extra catcher: and would form a solid 1-2 combo under normal circumstances. But Mesoraco's injury-filled last two seasons -- with a combined 39 games played -- have been anything but normal. With the former All-Star recovering from left shoulder and right hip surgeries, he's not expected to resume catching drills until mid-to-late January. He also may not be ready for a regular workload once the season starts. A low-cost veteran contingency is needed.

Who they can trade if necessary

SS : Third-year arbitration-eligible and a year away from free agency, Cozart is coming off a nice offensive year, while he was excellent defensively. The Reds are looking for a spot to play regularly, and shortstop is his best position. Cozart missed most of September with tendinitis in his surgically repaired right knee, but he is expected to be at 100 percent before Spring Training.

2B : Moving Phillips instead of Cozart would still give Peraza a place to play. Moving both veterans would also open up a spot for summer acquisition to play second base. Phillips, who turns 36 in June, will be much harder to move because he has a full no-trade clause and is set to earn $14 million in '17, the final year of his six-year contract. There also isn't a high demand for second basemen this offseason. Phillips used his power to decline a trade last winter, but he could be more open to being dealt this time around.

Top prospects

Per, the Reds' Top 10 prospects are third baseman Nick Senzel, left-handed pitcher , outfielder , pitcher , pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez, shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez, pitcher Tyler Mahle, pitcher , pitcher and catcher Tyler Stephenson.

Garrett, Robert Stephenson and Davis could be in the mix for the open rotation spot, while Winker could break into the Major Leagues.

Rule 5 Draft

Cincinnati's roster is full at 40 players, so someone would have to be jettisoned to make room for a Rule 5 Draft selection. The Reds have the second pick for the second year in a row, and they used that spot last year to make two selections in outfielder and reliever . Both players were cut in Spring Training.

Big contracts they might unload

First baseman has seven years and $179 million remaining on his contract, with a full no-trade clause. The Reds have not come to Votto with any potential deals to approve and Votto has expressed no willingness to be dealt. But his name is often a popular one for armchair traders, namely in his hometown of Toronto. Williams said during the General Managers Meetings he would like to complete the rebuild and contend again with Votto still a member of the Reds.

Payroll summary

There are the big contracts of Votto, Bailey, Phillips and Mesoraco, plus Iglesias, with arbitration raises coming for Cozart, , and . That puts the Reds' payroll north of $77 million before any additions, subtractions and the signings of players with less than three years of service time. Williams has said the budget has more room to spend this winter than during the previous two, which could give the Reds some added flexibility.