John Fay's Reds Insider column was his usual tea leaf reading (i.e. he's reading the various fans' boards) and then his analysis of the situation. He discusses the Reds pursuit of Erik Bedard and what they may have to give up to acquire a pitcher like him. He concludes that the Reds must do it if they hope to win.

He states that without such a move, the Reds will be picked to finish 4th or 5th in the division. It's a conclusion I don't share because much of the division, at this point, has not improved. I'm not saying we don't need another pitcher or two and and I would concur that Bailey and Belisle remain for the time being question marks.

That said, at this point in the offseason, I think the Cardinals have not improved, nor have the Astros. As we stand now, I would see us playing better ball then either of them. I would suggest that even without a minor pitching move, we would finish no worse than 3rd place. Obviously, that's not a high enough, but I think we will sacrifice much of our future if we give up what Fay suggests in trying to acquire a top line pitcher.

Don't count Reds out for Bedard; Starter could be missing piece

When the Reds left the winter meetings in Nashville on Thursday, there was a sense that their mission had failed.

They had gone to Nashville expressly to get a starting pitcher. The effort focused on getting Erik Bedard.

Though Bedard remains a Baltimore Oriole, the Reds have not given up on him.

In fact, there are people in the organization confident that the deal will get done. One rated the chances at 75 percent.

General manager Wayne Krivsky let trade talks rest Friday. He planned to make calls Saturday night and today.

"We're still talking," he said. "There are still some things out there."

It's not a stretch to say that next season's success hinges on getting someone like Bedard.

If the Reds can land Bedard, they instantly become a contender in the National League Central.

In fact, they'd probably be picked right behind the Chicago Cubs.

If they don't land him, the Reds probably will be picked fourth or fifth. That's not to say they couldn't surprise people.

But they'd be a much more solid bet with Bedard between Aaron Harang and Bronson Arroyo in the rotation.

The Reds will have to give up a lot to get Bedard. Ownership is steadfast that Jay Bruce will not be included in any deal. Though Krivsky says there are no untouchables, there's no deal that will pry Bruce away.

If Bruce isn't in the deal, Homer Bailey probably will be. One of the reasons the Reds are willing to part with Bailey and not Bruce is a lot of people in the organization rate Johnny Cueto as highly or more so than Bailey.

The Reds don't have an outfielder in the minor leagues in Bruce's class.

But it will take more than Bailey to get the deal done. The Reds would have to include someone like Joey Votto or Josh Hamilton as well as a prospect.

Should the Reds trade away so much of the future to try to win in 2008?

I think they have to.

Bedard is 28, not 38, so they could count on him to be part of the rotation for a long time.

Fans are tired of the status quo - which for the last seven years has been losing.

After last season's debacle, another bad season might erode the season-ticket base.

As the Reds stand right now, it's going to be difficult to break the cycle of losing. Signing Francisco Cordero did wonders for the bullpen. But the rotation is shaky.

You've got Harang and Arroyo and a lot of question marks.

Can Matt Belisle become a consistent starter? Is Bailey ready to take the next step? Will someone emerge and take over the fifth spot?

Put Bedard in the mix and it changes everything. He'd give the Reds a left-hander in the rotation. His numbers last season - 13-5, 3.17 ERA, 221 strikeouts in 182 innings - are on par with Harang's (16-6, 3.73 ERA, 218 strikeouts in 2312/3 innings).

And remember, Bedard pitched in the American League East.

And if the Reds don't get Bedard?

The dropoff would be huge. They'd probably have to bring in a second-tier free agent. Jon Lieber's the only name on the list that intrigues me. Lieber was 3-6 with a 4.73 ERA last season, not exactly Bedard numbers.

But the Reds are hoping they don't have to go to Plan B.