Back in 1999 there was an argument that ran around prior to the season about whether the Reds should go for it or rebuild.
Obviously they went for it and came painfully close to getting it. I maintain they'd have been a bear in a multi-game playoff, probably the toughest matchup for the Yankees of any of the NL contenders that season (though I don't think any team could have beaten the Yankees in 1999).
Yet prior to the season and during the first month while the team came together, much of the discussion was about its flaws, not its strengths. It wasn't a perfect team, nor was it guaranteed to win. Yet it became clear the club had quality offense, defense, depth, speed and relief pitching. Once it pieced together enough starting pitching it started winning games in large numbers. Its strengths remained through 2000, but the starting pitching wasn't up to the job. Then it went from being a flawed team that worked to a more flawed team didn't. Subsequent reload/rebuild efforts haven't netted positive results.
The mythology around the 99-00 is that it was a fluke and that the Reds should have gutted the club before it ever got constructed. Yet they were generally as good as the 05-06 Tigers and I don't see anyone damning that club. The Reds were good in 99-00, if not quite good enough. The lesson isn't that they were flawed, but that they managed their flaws fairly well.
That's what good teams do.
Look at the current world champions. The Phillies are a seriously flawed club. They've got holes in the lineup, holes in the rotation, depth issues and a bullpen with more than a few suspects. For instance, their top two power hitters, Howard and Burrell, are extremely streaky and their leadoff hitter has never posted a seasonal OB of better than .349.
And you don't have to look to spot the flaws on the 2006 Cardinals, 2005 White Sox, 2003 Marlins and 2002 Angels.
Likewise the 2008 Rays, 2007 Rockies, 2006 Tigers, 2005 Astros and 2002 Giants were deeply flawed clubs, but all made the final dance.
You can be good and flawed. Very few teams rank at the top of the league across the board and have bulletproof 1-8 or 1-9 lineups.
What the Reds are aiming for is a club that works around its flaws. Maybe your 2B isn't a great OB guy, but do his power, speed and glove make him a guy that could be an important piece of a winning club? You can trade vets for kids forever, but sooner or later you've got to settle on some players who may be imperfect, but are still important. I'm not saying Brandon Phillips must be kept, but the question should be asked whether he's potentially a meaningful piece of a quality ballclub.
And "quality ballclub" is a key phrase. Traditionalists frequently make the mistake that chemistry and playing the game the right way are all that's necessary to get a quality ballclub. Statheads often forget that orthagonal and seemingly secondary moves are what transforms a club from a loser to a winner. Magic bullets don't exist in either realm.
As the Reds try to stitch together a better team, the assessment that really counts is what does this add, how does it combine with what else the team has and what more does the team need to arrive at "quality ballclub" status.