Commentary

Only a few certainties in Reds' lineup

Originally Published: November 7, 2008
By Phil Rogers | Special to ESPN.com

The hiring of Dusty Baker and the signing of closer Francisco Cordero created some excitement in Cincinnati, but a thin starting rotation and an attack built around all-or-nothing power hitters led to a disappointing season. The Reds were in last place as late as Aug. 24.

CINCINNATI REDS
GM: Walt Jocketty
Manager: Dusty Baker
'08 record: 74-88, 5th in NL Central
Cincinnati Reds '08 payroll: $74.1M, 18th MLB
Runs scored: 704, 12th NL
Runs allowed: 800, 4th NL
OPS: .729, 12th NL
ERA: 4.55, 13th NL
Fielding percentage: .981, T-13 th NL

General manager Walt Jocketty traded Adam Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr. in a late-season sell-off. The development of young starters Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto and first baseman Joey Votto kept it from being a more painful year.

Primary needs

The Reds lost a ton of power and need a power hitter, preferably a right-handed one, to improve a lineup that is set only at first base (Votto), at second base (Brandon Phillips) and in right field (Jay Bruce). Pitching is the team's strength, but it wouldn't hurt to add a veteran starter so Baker isn't counting on three inexperienced starters.

Free agents

LHP Jeremy Affeldt, INF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr., OF Corey Patterson, C Paul Bako, C Javier Valentin, RHP Mike Lincoln, RHP Josh Fogg, RHP David Weathers, LHP Kent Mercker

Jocketty has begun negotiations to re-sign Weathers and Hairston and seems likely to enter the bidding to retain Affeldt. But the others are probably gone. Patterson definitely won't be back, and Mercker probably will retire.

Trade bait

The big pieces were moved this past season. Ryan Freel's versatility and on-base skills attract some interest. Micah Owings, acquired from Arizona, could be deemed expendable if Baker doesn't pencil him into the No. 5 starter's spot.

Farm aid

There's not a lot coming right behind Volquez, Cueto and Votto. Homer Bailey, once regarded as a better prospect than Cueto, needs a strong spring to get back into the picture. First baseman Yonder Alonso, a first-round pick in the 2008 draft, is a power hitter who could come on quickly.

Outlook

The Reds would love to land another significant free agent (a la Cordero) this winter. A corner outfielder seems to make the most sense, assuming shortstop Alex Gonzalez recovers from injury to be a regular.

Phil Rogers is the national baseball writer for the Chicago Tribune, which has its Web site at www.chicagosports.com. His book, "Say It's So," a story about the 2005 White Sox, is available in bookstores, through Amazon.com and by direct order from Triumph Books (800-222-4657).