With the non-waiver trade deadline quickly approaching, the Reds find themselves in a precarious position about whether they are buyers or sellers.
Despite riding a six-game losing skid, Cincinnati remains just 5.5 games back of first place and only 4 games back of the second Wild Card spot. On the surface, the Reds seem as though they are still very much in the thick of the postseason race. However, dig a little deeper and you'll realize the outlook isn't as rosy as what meets the eye.
First off, two of the club's most prolific hitters in Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto won't be able to help the team until at least mid-August, leaving the Reds with arguably the most punchless offense in the National League, evidenced by the 12 runs it has produced in six woeful games since the All-Star Break. Of course, a struggling Jay Bruce and the cooling off Devin Mesoraco and Todd Frazier, who both carried the club offensively in the first half, doesn't help either.
Throw in a less efficient defense and the regression of a tiring bullpen and the Reds don't have much to hang their hats on at the moment. Starting pitching will keep the team in most every game from here on. But in order to come out on top in more than half, the Reds are going to either have to add a potent bat, pray for a couple of guys to get hot, or choose to fold the cards and look toward 2015. Empirical evidence suggests that general manager Walt Jocketty should look to add pieces for the future.
Being just a handful of games behind in the standings is one thing. But having three teams in front of you with better records to pass is quite another. It's not unfathomable to outperform one or even two teams during the second half. But three? Now that's a longshot.
This is why the Reds should seriously consider building for future success by disposing of expendable pieces right now. In my opinion, one of the most expendable pieces on the roster is Jonathan Broxton.
As Steve Mancuso suggested on Redleg Nation, the stock value for Broxton will never be higher than it is right now. Both are having career seasons and could provide a huge boost to any other contending team in baseball. Thus, the Reds need to capitalize on this market for pitching by parting ways with the 33-year-old Simon as well as the $10 million still owed to Broxton at the end of this season.
In case you missed it, the slumping Rangers netted a pair of top prospects from the Tigers on Wednesday in exchange for closer Joakim Soria. In fact, MLB.com has already re-ranked Texas' minor league system and has tabbed the new prospects from Detroit as the sixth and seventh-best Rangers' prospects overall. Both Broxton and Soria are the same age (30) and are set to receive similar salaries in 2015. But the difference between Broxton and Soria is that the former has been more dominant this year.
Broxton is 4-0 with a tidy 1.03 ERA and 0.800 WHIP in 36 appearances and also has several seasons of experience under his belt serving as a closer. Meanwhile, Soria is 1-3 with a 2.70 ERA and 0.870 WHIP in 35 outings. If the Rangers can squeeze a pair of solid prospects out of the Tigers for Soria, why can't the Reds do the same with Broxton?
It would be naive to think losing Broxton wouldn't hurt Cincinnati's bullpen, but it might be a stretch to say the Reds couldn't somehow march to the playoffs without him. A guy by the name of Aroldis Chapman still serves as closer and the emergence of Jumbo Diaz, who excelled in the closer role for Triple-A Louisville prior to being promoted, makes me believe the relief core can sustain itself without Broxton.
All told, the market for proven closers is primed for sellers this year and the Reds would be foolish not to take advantage of unloading Broxton's contract, all the while perhaps adding a couple of prospects to a farm system that could desperately use some more talent on the offensive side.