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Reds plan to be aggressive at Winter Meetings

MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- The Reds spent the first two months of the offseason focused on a manager search and assembling David Bell's coaching staff. They were bold in doing so, as they pursued and signed both a highly respected pitching coach and hitting coach away from 2018 postseason clubs in Derek Johnson and Turner Ward, respectively.

Aiming to make the most of this new era of leadership in Cincinnati, and with more money to spend, Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall are planning to remain aggressive as the club heads to Las Vegas for the Winter Meetings, which get underway Monday, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

CINCINNATI -- The Reds spent the first two months of the offseason focused on a manager search and assembling David Bell's coaching staff. They were bold in doing so, as they pursued and signed both a highly respected pitching coach and hitting coach away from 2018 postseason clubs in Derek Johnson and Turner Ward, respectively.

Aiming to make the most of this new era of leadership in Cincinnati, and with more money to spend, Reds president of baseball operations Dick Williams and general manager Nick Krall are planning to remain aggressive as the club heads to Las Vegas for the Winter Meetings, which get underway Monday, at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino.

The latest sign that the Reds are not content with the status quo came last week when popular but offensively struggling center fielder Billy Hamilton was non-tendered. On the heels of that move, Williams was optimistic that the club could be active next week.

"We've laid a lot of the groundwork. We've got a lot of feelers out there," Williams said. "Now it's sort of getting into that mode of checking every day with free agents and other teams to see where people are developing. We're all kind of feeling each other out right now. I do think there is a chance that stuff will happen by the time we get to the Winter Meetings."

Free-agent rumors

Coming off their fourth consecutive season of more than 90 losses, and four last-place finishes in the National League Central, the Reds are trying to turn things around. With payroll going up and a goal to be more active with player acquisition during the offseason, the Winter Meetings could be one to watch closely for Reds fans.

Club needs
The Reds are seeking at least two pitchers -- preferably for the rotation, but they also are willing to direct some assets for another reliever after a season in which many teams saw shorter starts and a greater need for creative bullpen management. While it would appear unlikely Williams would take a big risk to sign a top-of-the-market starter like Dallas Keuchel, Cincinnati could be involved with the second tier of free agents. On the trade front, pitchers like Sonny Gray and possibly Corey Kluber could be had.

Video: Tribe rumored to be entertaining offers on Kluber

The market started to move this week when the Nationals signed the top available starter, lefty Patrick Corbin, to a six-year, $140 million contract. The Red Sox retained their own free agent when Nathan Eovaldi agreed to a four-year, $68 million deal. Williams didn't believe those deals would have much of an effect on his club's pursuits.

"I personally think some of those guys are out in a little bit of a stratified market, a little bit of a smaller group," Williams said. "I'm not sure they have direct impact on the larger group of starters that are still available."

Following the departure of Hamilton, finding a center fielder to replace him has also become a primary need.

Whom might they trade?
The Reds have moved away from the idea that some players or prospects are untouchable. Williams and Krall are at least willing to listen to offers for anybody, which opens more possibilities. Scooter Gennett is a year away from free agency and it's been quiet regarding long-term contract talks. Homer Bailey is owed $28 million for 2019 and his option buyout for '20, but it would be stunning if the Reds found a way to move the struggling veteran. But to get a good piece for the rotation, the club will probably have to part with elite prospects. That means hearing offers for Nick Senzel, Taylor Trammell, Hunter Greene and Jonathan India.

Video: Nick Senzel on his recovery from elbow surgery

Prospects to know
Senzel, ranked No. 1 in the organization and No. 6 overall by MLB Pipeline, is big league ready but doesn't have a place to play in the infield. It's possible he could be an option for Cincinnati in center field. Trammell, the 2018 Futures Game MVP, has a big bat and bigger maturity that indicates a star in the making who is at least a year away from the Majors. Able to throw 102 mph, Greene was the best player in the 2017 Draft -- taken No. 2 overall -- but is recovering from an elbow strain. India, the No. 5 pick this year, can play three infield spots well and has plate discipline that should make him successful.

Rule 5 Draft
The Reds' 40-man roster currently has 36 players. Their No. 21 prospect, outfielder Michael Beltre, was left unprotected and could be taken. Beltre finished last season at Class A Advanced Daytona. Cincinnati could perhaps fill a bullpen need by taking a shot on a pitcher.

Payroll summary
Last season's Opening Day payroll was roughly $101 million. The front office vowed that 2019 would feature a significant bump to the largest payroll in club history. How much that would be exactly is unknown thus far but don't expect the Reds to cross into the top 10-15 range in MLB. That's not something a small-market club can afford to do.

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.

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