It was about this time four years ago when the Reds gathered their baseball brain trust in Cincinnati to do a little comparison shopping.
They held the third pick in the 2002 draft. They were going to pick a pitcher - one who hopefully could develop into the No. 1 starter the franchise so desperately needed.
They zeroed in on two high school pitchers: right-hander Chris Gruler and left-hander Scott Kazmir.
The decision they made - to pick Gruler over Kazmir - was arguably the worst the franchise has made in the last five, or maybe the last 10, years.
Kazmir is the ace of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays' staff. He is 7-3 with a 2.86 ERA. He has pitched 691/3 innings this season.
Gruler has pitched 77 innings total in his four years in the Reds' minor leagues. He's currently in extended spring training trying to rehab from shoulder problems. He threw a two-inning stint the other day is Sarasota, Fla. His fastball topped out at 86 mph.
The decision to pick Gruler ultimately was made by then-general manager Jim Bowden.
Bowden, as was his style, made a show of the decision. He brought both Gruler and Kazmir in to throw. And he brought a crowd to watch them.
"There must have been 20 people out there watching," said Mark Berry, then the bullpen catcher, now the third base coach. "Johnny Bench, Jim Bowden, Bob Boone. All the big scouts."
Berry caught Kazmir and Gruler.
Both were impressive.
"You couldn't go wrong with either one," Berry said. "Gruler was a big, strong kid, a live arm."
Bench said Gruler's changeup and curveball were better than Tom Seaver's.
"Kazmir had a quick, electric arm," Berry said. "He was a smaller guy. I remember somebody saying if he doesn't work out as a starter, at worst he's a Billy Wagner type."
Grant Griesser, the assistant director of player development, saw Kazmir but not Gruler.
"He was impressive," Griesser said. "Great arm."
Both Berry and Griesser remember the split being about 50-50.
"Guys I respect were mad we weren't taking Kazmir," Griesser said. "It was split. Jim made the final decision."
Adam Dunn was shocked when the Reds didn't pick Kazmir. Kazmir, like Dunn, grew up in the Houston area. Kazmir's father, in fact, worked for Dunn's dad.
"I thought we were going to take him," Dunn said. "When you get a lefty that throws 95, 96 ... From a player's standpoint, I couldn't see how they could pass him up."
The Reds took Gruler, and Kazmir slipped all the way to 14th. Money issues were part of that.
Gruler signed quickly for $2.5 million - still a Reds record.
"We felt Gruler and Kazmir were the two best pitchers in the draft," Bowden said at the time. "We were split as an organization on who to take."
Bowden went on to say the Reds took Gruler because they thought he had a higher "ceiling," baseball talk for long-range potential.
"A philosophy I've had in the draft is that we want the player with the highest ceiling, biggest reward: Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Chris Gruler," Bowden said. "This guy has a chance to be a No. 1. And it's so hard to get a No. 1 in this game."
The Mets ended up trading Kazmir to Tampa Bay.
He seems destined to be a No. 1 for a long time. His name and the Cy Young Award have been mentioned in the same sentence.
Gruler is a long way from even pitching in the minors again. There are a lot of people in the Reds' organization who think he was hurt when they drafted him, although his first year in the system was the only one when he was reasonably healthy.
He made 11 starts in 2002, the year he was drafted. He has made only nine since. He had major shoulder surgery in 2003 and had another shoulder surgery last year.
He has been on perpetual rehab the last four years.
If he finishes the season with Single-A Dayton, it will be considered a victory.
Would things be different if Gruler hadn't gotten hurt? Sure. But it's impossible to say if he would have been as good as Kazmir.
But you can say with a great deal of certainty that if the Reds had picked Kazmir, they wouldn't still be searching for a No. 1 starter.