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Reds' front office takes wait-and-see approach

Williams not necessarily looking to make a trade at Winter Meetings
MLB.com @m_sheldon

CINCINNATI -- Whether or not the Reds make an actual trade or signing at the Winter Meetings next week won't be the standard to determine whether it was a successful five days. Like Cincinnati general managers before him, Dick Williams takes a longer view of the offseason.

"We have a plan going into the Winter Meetings -- really the offseason," Williams said. "I don't plan to do anything in particular at the Winter Meetings. I was talking to [Indians GM] Chris Antonetti the other day and he said, 'I try to avoid making any decision at the Winter Meetings. There's too much going on.' It's almost better to have all conversations there and then get out of there and make the decision."

CINCINNATI -- Whether or not the Reds make an actual trade or signing at the Winter Meetings next week won't be the standard to determine whether it was a successful five days. Like Cincinnati general managers before him, Dick Williams takes a longer view of the offseason.

"We have a plan going into the Winter Meetings -- really the offseason," Williams said. "I don't plan to do anything in particular at the Winter Meetings. I was talking to [Indians GM] Chris Antonetti the other day and he said, 'I try to avoid making any decision at the Winter Meetings. There's too much going on.' It's almost better to have all conversations there and then get out of there and make the decision."

Hot Stove Tracker

Set to run from Sunday through Thursday, the 2017 Winter Meetings will be held on the grounds of the Walt Disney World resort in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. It all wraps up on the morning of Dec. 14 with the Rule 5 Draft.

The Reds have often used the latter half of the offseason to make their moves. By January, there is usually a full understanding of the marketplace, and unsigned players might be available for lower prices. Teams that have a need to fill in the weeks before Spring Training could become open to a trade they weren't as keen about in December.

Video: Sheldon on potential changes to the Reds in 2018

"I think there are things on the horizon that give me optimism knowing the club we have is going to be better," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "I think there is room in the budget to make our ball club better in some of the areas we need."

Club needs

Starting pitcher 
Williams doesn't feel compelled to add a starter, but he also knows the Reds' rotation has been decimated by injuries and underperforming young players the past two seasons. On the other hand, the club feels better knowing it has Luis Castillo, Sal Romano and Robert Stephenson coming off of strong second halves. Among the veterans injured in 2017, Anthony DeSclafani, Homer Bailey and Brandon Finnegan are all expected to be healthy. Adding someone who can provide consistent deep innings would be a boost, but not mandatory. This pitcher could also be potentially used in a swing role and get work from the bullpen.

Video: MIL@CIN: Castillo strikes out 10 over eight innings

Bullpen
A thin rotation exposed a bullpen that initially pulled its weight quite well before it became overused. Heading into 2018, the only roles that appear sorted out are for closer Raisel Iglesias and lefty setup man Wandy Peralta. That leaves five or six spots up for grabs, and perhaps they won't all be filled from within.

A backup shortstop
With Zack Cozart likely to depart as a free agent, Jose Peraza will be the new everyday shortstop for Cincinnati. The organization has some bench options -- such as Dilson Herrera -- but none who could step up and play shortstop on regular basis if something happened to Peraza.

"We do need to have someone on the roster that plays shortstop without having to move Eugenio Suarez over there temporarily," Price said. "I think we like the idea of him playing third base and continuing to become an elite player at that position."

Who they can trade if necessary
RHP Iglesias:
Coming off of a strong season where he saved 28 games in 30 attempts, Iglesias' contract also makes him the Reds' best trade asset. His seven-year, $27 million contract (signed in 2014) pays him $4.5 million in '18, $5 million in '19 and $5 million in '20. He can opt out for arbitration in each of the next two years, but he already declined to do so this offseason. Iglesias doesn't become a free agent until after the 2021 season.

LF Adam Duvall: The right-handed power-hitting Duvall has slugged 30 or more home runs in each of the past two seasons, and he was a 2016 All-Star. He has also been a National League Gold Glove finalist the past two years. If Cincinnati decides that prospect Jesse Winker needs to play more regularly, Duvall could be an option to move. He isn't arbitration-eligible for the first time until after next season.

Video: Sheldon discusses Winker, Reds' outfield

RF Scott Schebler: Also a 30-homer hitter last season, the lefty-hitting Schebler could be an asset to move for the same reason -- finding a spot for Winker. Like Duvall, he struggled in the second half, but Schebler is also controllable for multiple years. He's two years away from arbitration eligibility.

CF Billy Hamilton: The Reds remain high on Hamilton's speed and defense, but his hitting and durability remain as question marks. His trade value is probably lower right now, but a good first half at the plate in 2018 could change that. One issue is that there is no one in the organization who can play center field anywhere close to what Hamilton does.

Top prospects
Per MLBPipeline.com, Cincinnati's top 10 prospects are third baseman Nick Senzel, right-handed pitcher Hunter Greene, outfielder Taylor Trammell, right-handed pitcher Tyler Mahle, Winker, outfielder Aristides Aquino, second baseman Shed Long, catcher Tyler Stephenson, shortstop Alfredo Rodriguez and right-handed pitcher Vladimir Gutierrez.

Young pitchers like Amir Garrett, Cody Reed, Rookie Davis and Jackson Stephens are in the mix to battle for spots, but they could also draw interest should the Reds make the unlikely decision to part with prospects.

Video: Reds GM Williams discusses team's future at Redsfest

Big contracts they might unload
First baseman Joey Votto still has six guaranteed years and $157 million remaining on his contract, with a full no-trade clause. The 34-year-old has repeatedly said he has no interest in leaving Cincinnati.

Bailey has two guaranteed years and $49 million left on his six-year contract, but his injury history would make it difficult to move him. Catcher Devin Mesoraco is due $13.1 million in 2018, the final season of his four-year deal, but he has been limited to 95 games over the past three years because of injuries and surgeries.

Payroll summary
The Reds have approximately $69 million committed to 2018 contracts but only three players ages 30 or over. Williams indicated earlier this offseason that the team has room in the budget to make needed additions, but Cincinnati still will not enter budget-busting bidding wars for top free agents.

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.

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