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Reds could be in trouble for years

When your team is not a contender in Major League Baseball, it is customary to start stripping down the roster at the July 31 trade deadline. Each year, we see high-priced veterans who are having a solid campaign getting moved for a nice haul of a few prospects, hopefully men who can help in a few years when the team is in a better position.

This certainly should be the case for the Cincinnati Reds. Under manager Dusty Baker, the Reds made the playoffs twice in the earlier part of the decade but failed to advance past the National League Division Series both times. First, Cincinnati fell in a three-game sweep to the Philadelphia Phillies before blowing a 2-0 series lead to the San Francisco Giants, who would go on to win the World Series.

At the end of July 5, the Reds are sitting at 36-44 and 16.5 games behind the NL Central-leading St. Louis Cardinals. Cincinnati is only two games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers, who have won eight straight with hopes of climbing out of the cellar. The Reds are going nowhere and doing it quickly under manager Bryan Price, who seems more exasperated by the day.

The problem for Cincinnati’s front office are the contracts many of the players are currently on. First baseman Joey Votto looked poised to become one of the best players in the game after his 2011 season, when he eclipsed 25 home runs for the fourth straight year and knocked in more than 100 RBI for his second consecutive campaign. Votto has been solid since, but certainly not worth the 10-year, $225 million deal he will be on until the end of the 2023 season. Considering Votto is already 31 years old, that contract is absolutely untradeable.

Then there is second baseman Brandon Phillips. When all is set and done, Phillips will be a borderline Hall-0f-Fame candidate. However, his contract is crushing Cincinnati at the moment. Phillips is 34 years old and hitting .279 with five home runs. He’s still due a prorated amount of his $12 million this year before getting paid $13 and $14 million in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

The only true trading chip is starting pitcher Johnny Cueto, who will be a free agent after this season. Cueto has been brilliant in each of the last two seasons and could provide the Reds with a major haul from a contender. If the Reds are wise, they shop Cueto aggressively over the next three weeks before dealing him to the highest bidder.

It will be an interesting July in Cincinnati, with so many players entrenched on the roster of a bad team. General manager Walt Jocketty will have to work some magic, and perhaps even deal All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier to speed up the rebuilding process.


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