I was listening to Tracy Jones (don't ask) yesterday and he was telling the masses that this team was "close" to being a pennant winning team. Sure enough, the next 2-3 callers all said that they appreciated his comments because they also felt this team was close.
I don't think this team is that close. They need several pieces added. A front three of Harang, Arroyo, and Homer is nice. Belisle looks like he could be an immediate #4. That part is nice. Get rid of Conine and Hatteberg and you've got Votto to fill in, and for less money, that's not bad either. Phillips is nice. Encarnacion is nice, too. Gonzalez isn't a bad "veteran" player at SS (but isn't a good solution long term). Ross at catcher isn't the best, but he's not the worst option either. I surely wouldn't keep him when he starts to get expensive, though. Hamilton is great in the OF. Bruce will be up sometime to take over for Griffey. Need another OF if both Dunn and Griffey are traded. So in the rotation we need a #5 starter going forward and in the field we need another OFer (if Dunn and Griffey are traded), and you could argue that the Reds have Cueto and Freel to fill those two roles. That's not all bad, and close enough where I would say this group isn't that far away...
The problems come in the bullpen and on the bench. Currently both are horrid. The Reds need to get rid of Maj and Stanton. Weathers and Santos need to be traded. We need to give important innings to the young guys (Burton, Coutlangus, Coffey, MacBeth, Salmon) and bring up others to help them and get their feet wet (Medlock, Guevara).
The bench: Hopper is fine. Freel is fine. Moeller and Valentin need to go. Castro needs to go. Maybe you could keep Hatteberg for another year to backup and provide insurance for Votto next year. I wouldn't mind Hatteberg as a bench player. The other three positions need to be address, though. A better backup catcher (than Moeller) would be nice. A better LH pinch hitter (than Valentin) would also be nice. A backup infielder to replace Castro? Yeah, we need one of those.
So, are we close? Eh, we're not that far, I guess, but in order to stay close, we have to purge the veterans that Wayne seems so happy to collect, we have to turn the bullpen over to the youngsters soon so they can get invaluable experience and adjust to the level we need them to be at, and we need to bring in some bats for the bench. We can be a lot closer going into next season than we are now, but if this F.O. doesn't do the right things we could also be a lot further away.
Trading chips: Griffey, Dunn, Freel, Hatteberg, Lohse, Weathers and Santos.
Pieces needed: Starting OF (preferably young and RH), Young closer or closer prospect, 5th starter (if Cueto isn't ready by ST 2008), Backup C, Backup INF, LH bench bat.
We should be able to fill all of those spots and get more prospects with the players we have to move, IMO.