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Reds have choice to make as Deadline nears

@m_sheldon
July 10, 2019

CINCINNATI -- The National League Central standings show the Reds in last place, but they are very much still in the race. Only 4 1/2 games separate the first-place Cubs (47-43) and Cincinnati (41-46). Despite being easily swept in two games by Cleveland heading into the All-Star break, the club

CINCINNATI -- The National League Central standings show the Reds in last place, but they are very much still in the race. Only 4 1/2 games separate the first-place Cubs (47-43) and Cincinnati (41-46). Despite being easily swept in two games by Cleveland heading into the All-Star break, the club feels bullish about its chances.

“We’re there, despite the weekend,” All-Star starting pitcher Sonny Gray said. “It was unfortunate to lose the last two games like that. But I think if you told us coming into the season that we’d be where we are, 4 1/2 games back of first place, I think we’d say, ‘Sign me up,’ and we’d come out for the second half and fight every day.”

The Reds have the third-best pitching staff in the Major Leagues and a plus-27 run differential. But they remain 14th out of 15 NL teams with a .235 team batting average. Such indicators give the front office reason to believe a chance to make a surge is very possible. The Reds play the Cubs at Wrigley Field next Monday to Wednesday during the first road trip after the break.

“I think we’re definitely a contending team, for sure,” Reds pitcher Anthony DeSclafani said. “The standings don’t show what kind of team we are. Everyone in this division is right in the thick of it. Anything can turn quick. Going into the break, I think we’re in a good spot. We have to come out hot in the second half, for sure.”

Here is how the Reds look as they approach the final weeks before the July 31 Trade Deadline.

Current status: Buyer or holding
The Reds have a lot of players with contracts expiring after the season, including Yasiel Puig, Scooter Gennett, Tanner Roark and Jose Iglesias. If they were out of the race, they’d be trying to shed players and look to 2020. If the front office did that now, while in contention for the first time since '13, it would lose the clubhouse and alienate Cincinnati fans desperate for a winning team.

What they are seeking
If the Reds can add, president of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall would most likely want players they can have some control over beyond 2019.

Cincinnati could use some relief pitchers. It had one of the best bullpens in the Majors until recently. Amir Garrett (left lat strain) is on the injured list and David Hernandez has shown some fatigue. Jared Hughes has been unable to successfully follow up his excellent 2018 campaign. The team is confident that the offense will pick up, with players like Puig and Joey Votto heating up, but another complementary bat for depth would also be a boost.

What they have to offer
The Reds moved several Top 30 Prospects during the offseason to acquire players, but they’re generally willing to listen on any player other clubs want. Williams and Krall were reportedly willing to move No. 3 prospect Jonathan India. Center fielder and No. 9 prospect Jose Siri’s path to the big leagues could be blocked if Nick Senzel is the permanent big league solution in center field.

Possible scenarios
White Sox closer Alex Colome is having an excellent season, with a 2.02 ERA and 20 saves, and is third-year arbitration-eligible this winter. He would be a great fit in the late innings with Raisel Iglesias. Mets reliever Seth Lugo would be an option if that team sells, and he’s eligible for arbitration for the first time this winter. Former All-Star Tony Watson is available from the Giants, and he would give the Reds another lefty to supplement Garrett. In return, the Reds have some system depth in the middle infield and outfield. They have few big league-ready pitching prospects, but there a lot at the lower levels to like.

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.