Buyers or Sellers?
The Reds have all the makings of an aggressive deadline buyer. They entered the season with high expectations and a large payroll, and as we move into mid-July they are within four games of first place in a division that looks winnable. They also have some clear needs that ought to be addressed if they hope to overcome the Pirates and Cardinals in the final months.
What They Need
Unfortunately, the most glaring of those needs is a right-handed masher. The best hitters in Cincy's lineup -- Joey Votto, Jay Bruce and Shin-Soo Choo -- all bat from the left side. Ryan Ludwick was expected to add punch from the opposite side but he suffered a major shoulder injury in April and won't return until at least mid-August. With Ludwick absent most the year, the Reds have gotten an ugly .234/.305/.354 hitting line from their left fielders.
Clearly, Josh Willingham would have been a potential fit here, so the timing of his injury is unfortunate. Trevor Plouffe's right-handed pop could be of some interest, but the Reds already have a fairly similar third baseman in Todd Frazier.
Another area where Cincinnati might be looking for deadline help, like most contenders, is the bullpen. The closer spot is already anchored by Aroldis Chapman, who might be the only left-handed reliever in baseball more dominant than Glen Perkins, but the Reds could use some help in the middle innings. Setup men Jonathan Broxton and Sean Marshall have been mired on the disabled list, and with Tony Cingrani's return to the rotation, Manny Parra is now the only southpaw available beyond Chapman.
What Might Work
Cincinnati's clearest need (that the Twins can help with) is a reliever who can be counted in high-leverage innings, preferably a lefty. The Reds probably won't pay the price for Perkins since they already have a closer, but Brian Duensing might make sense. Jared Burton or Casey Fien may also hold some appeal, as GM Walt Jocketty would likely welcome impact bullpen help in any form.
J.J. Hoover - RHP - MLB - 25 years old
If the Reds are willing to swap young promise for certified experience, Hoover could be in play. He's a rising young relief star with big stuff, but he's got some command problems and is mostly unproven. If the Reds were to try and make a play for Perkins, you'd have to imagine that Hoover -- a potential closer down the road -- would be involved.
Daniel Corcino - RHP - Triple-A - 22 years old
Corcino was viewed as a fringe Top 100 prospect coming into this year but he has come off the tracks in Triple-A, where he holds a 6.72 ERA, 1.78 WHIP and 56/43 K/BB ratio in 83 innings. He definitely looks like a fixer-upper project, and he's young enough that it might be worthwhile.
Jon Moscot - RHP - High-A - 21 years old
A fourth-round pick out of Pepperdine University in the 2012 draft, Moscot impressed in his rookie-ball debut last year but has seemingly stalled out in Single-A, with a 1-11 record and 5.10 ERA. However, his solid peripherals (1.36 WHIP, 83/30 K/BB in 85 IP) tell a much different story. He's known as a strike-throwing ground ball guy in the Twins' mold, so he'd be a logical buy-low target.
Ismael Guillon - LHP - Low-A - 21 years old
Interesting upside, major control problems. Over 69 2/3 innings in Low-A this season, Guillon has piled up 84 strikeouts along with 67 walks. That's nearly a walk per inning.
Robert Stephenson - RHP - Low-A - 20 years old
Stephenson was taken three picks ahead of Levi Michael in the 2011 draft. He emerged as a prominent pitching prospect with a strong pro debut last year, and has continued to build his stock by dominating the Midwest League this season, with a 2.97 ERA and 85/17 K/BB ratio in 66 2/3 frames. Among pitchers with 60 or more innings in the MWL, Stephenson's 11.5 K/9 rate leads the way (J.O. Berrios, at 10.7, ranks third).
With Billy Hamilton scuffling in Triple-A, Stephenson might be Cincinnati's top prospect. That means he won't be going anywhere for less than a king's ransom.