CINCINNATI — Fast forward to Opening Day 2008. Don't stop along the way, not even to late September of this season because it probably will be ugly.
What will the Cincinnati Reds roster look like next year? Maybe they should just blow it all up and start over.
There are only a few so-called untouchables on the current roster, a whole lot of trade bait and a whole lot of won't-be-backs.
Who are they? Glad you asked. And we're doing this in the interest of aiding General Manager Wayne Krivsky, no compensation required.
P Aaron Harang, OF Josh Hamilton, P Homer Bailey, 2B Brandon Phillips.
Harang is the best pitcher fans outside of Cincinnati have never heard of, even though at 6-foot-7 and 275 pounds you couldn't miss him in a crowded airport terminal.
Hamilton, the baseball story of the year after missing more than three years due to drug and alcohol abuse, is a future megastar — and it won't take long.
Bailey was rushed to the majors and is paying the price, but has the stuff of stardom.
Phillips has all the talent, but needs to carry a jar of mustard in his pocket to slather onto his hot-doggedness. Phillips' antics could get him and some of his teammates hurt from errant fastballs due to his showboating.
P Bronson Arroyo, P Jon Coutlangus, OF Ryan Freel, 3B Edwin Encarnacion, OF Ken Griffey Jr., OF Norris Hopper, C David Ross.
Arroyo drives folks crazy with periods of untouchability and periods when he can't survive, but eats innings and has the stuff.
Any left-hander who strikes out the side and puts an exclamation point next to it by striking out Barry Bonds to end the all-strikeout inning — as Jon Coutlangus did last week — is a keeper.
Freel may not have the most talent and is injury-prone, but his versatility enables him to plug a lot of holes and inject energy into a sometimes-moribund band of Reds.
Encarnacion is an enigma, because just when it seems his defense and offense are equally putrid he has a spell of hitting and defense that may not remind anybody of Brooks Robinson, but he is a decent imitation of a big-league third baseman.
Griffey has shown this year what he can do without bandages, surgical procedures and Advil. He has star power with the fans and is still the best player on the team.
OK, so Ross has long offensive blackouts, but he does hit home runs and hits them in bunches. Plus, he is an A-plus defensive catcher with a Glock arm and is a strong handler of pitchers, a nice stopgap until No. 1 draft pick Devin Mesoraco makes the climb through the system.
Hopper is a little guy with speed, bunting ability, defensive skills and a great guy to have in the clubhouse as the foil of pranks because he always smiles about it, making him a nice extra player.
OF Adam Dunn, 1B Scott Hatteberg, 1B Jeff Conine, P Mike Stanton, P David Weathers, P Todd Coffey,P Matt Belisle, P Kyle Lohse, C Javier Valentin.
Dunn will be paid $13 million next year if the Reds keep him, but if he is traded that option goes away and any team trading for him risks losing him at the end of the year to free agency. Therefore, before a trade is made, a team must be convinced Dunn will re-sign with them (is that legal?). If a deal can be made, color him gone.
Aging veterans Hatteberg and Conine, both first basemen, can help contending teams with their savvy and ability and probably will be gone before the trade deadline.
Stanton, a well-aged vintage left-handed reliever, could be a nice piece for a contending team's bullpen. And depending upon how soon Eddie Guardado comes back to be a closer, the Reds might be able to deal Weathers to a winning team for prospects.
Everybody is looking for pitching, so Coffey, Lohse and Belisle could be pitchers other teams ask about. All three have had their good moments, and bad moments and a change of scenery could help them and help the Reds improve their rotation and/or bullpen.
Valentin is, at best, a pinch hitter and a suspect backup catcher because of defensive shortcomings. He is a luxury for a struggling team, but a team pointing toward the playoffs could use a switch-hitting bat and a backup catcher/first baseman.
Won't be back
Hatteberg, Conine, Stanton, SS Juan Castro, P Mike Gosling, P Marcus MacBeth, P Ricky Stone.
Hatteberg, Conine and Stanton have been discussed. If Hatteberg and Conine are gone, that leaves room for Class AAA Louisville first baseman Joey Votto, ready to make the jump.
Castro has been a wonderful defensive piece with one of the most pleasant demeanors in baseball, but his time is close to up, and the Reds need to get younger with their extra players, guys who might eventually step in and play, such as Louisville infielder Jeff Keppinger.
Ricky Stone is a journeyman right-hander who can jump from team to team for as long as he wants or return to Hamilton and hang some more drywall.
MacBeth and Gosling are two guys with permanent round-trip tickets to Louisville, two of about five interchangeable pitchers the Reds bounced back and forth between Cincinnati and Louisville.