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Reds end first half hot, but '19 is still main focus

Cincinnati's surge helps avoid need for bigger-scale rebuild; Harvey likely to be flipped
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- It seems quite the contradiction that the Reds are both in fifth place in the National League Central and one of the hottest teams in the Major Leagues.

Yet that's exactly where Cincinnati is with a 43-53 record at the All-Star break. The situation is much more optimistic than when the season started. Manager Bryan Price was let go after a 3-15 record, and interim manager Jim Riggleman was brought in on April 19. The Reds have gone 40-38 under Riggleman.

CINCINNATI -- It seems quite the contradiction that the Reds are both in fifth place in the National League Central and one of the hottest teams in the Major Leagues.

Yet that's exactly where Cincinnati is with a 43-53 record at the All-Star break. The situation is much more optimistic than when the season started. Manager Bryan Price was let go after a 3-15 record, and interim manager Jim Riggleman was brought in on April 19. The Reds have gone 40-38 under Riggleman.

While Riggleman deserves credit, he also benefitted from the return of Eugenio Suarez and Scott Schebler from the disabled list and Joey Votto rebounding from a slow start. The rotation -- aided by the healthy return of Anthony DeSclafani and the acquisition of Matt Harvey -- has found a groove.

Since June 10, the Reds' 21-10 record is best in the National League. While their postseason hopes remain a long shot, there is still plenty of time for the club to feel like it salvaged 2018 and that it built something towards contending in '19.

Here are where things stand for the Reds at the All-Star break, with the non-waiver Trade Deadline approaching on July 31:

Current status: Seller
This fact should be qualified, somewhat. Had the April start continued that trajectory throughout the first half, the Reds would be huge sellers and looking to start the rebuild over. President of baseball operations Dick Williams recently told MLB.com the club would still look to make moves for the short-term and long-term future, but Cincinnati is clearly not prepping for a fire sale.

Video: Must C Comeback: Votto caps Reds' 7-run rally in 9th

What they are seeking
Starting pitching. If this rebuild has taught the Reds anything, it's that even the best projections for young starters don't always pan out immediately -- or at all. Several of the young, promising starters that were expected to be come into their own in 2018 simply haven't. Luis Castillo and Sal Romano have endured inconsistency throughout this season. Tyler Mahle had a sensational June but had more than a few bumps early on. Amir Garrett has proven to be most effective out of the bullpen and has largely thrived as a reliever. After a rough start and demotion, Brandon Finnegan is at Triple-A Louisville converting to a reliever. Robert Stephenson and Cody Reed are also with Louisville.

What they have to offer
The Reds have a few attractive trade chips and only one key player in Harvey who is not under club control for 2019. Although it now appears Scooter Gennett is unlikely to be dealt, the Reds will try to flip Harvey to capitalize on his value increase since coming from the Mets in May. Relievers like Raisel Iglesias, Jared Hughes and David Hernandez have cost-effective contracts. Outfielders Billy Hamilton and Adam Duvall could also potentially be had.

Video: MIL@CIN: Harvey tosses 5 2/3 scoreless innings, K's 6

Possible scenario
It only seems like a matter of time before the Reds flip Harvey for a better return after they got him from the Mets for catcher Devin Mesoraco on May 8. Since the trade, he is 5-3 with a 3.64 ERA and 4-0 with a 1.86 ERA over his last five starts. A free agent at season's end with postseason experience, he would be a rental for a contending club needing a complementary but effective piece in their rotation. Harvey is back to throwing up to 96 mph and would probably net at least one quality prospect in return.

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.

Cincinnati Reds, Matt Harvey