I'm no fan of espn (I'll post on that at some point) but the network provides an interesting starting point for the Reds' hotstove discussion. Here is the current projected 25 player roster:
1B Votto (you have to say Joey Votto as if you're doing a Christopher Walken impersenation)
SS A. Gonzalez
OF Jolbert Cabrera (I would give this spot to a reliever)
IF Richar (from the Jr. trade)
IF Adam Rosales
UTL Wilkin Castillo (can do everything but pitch - from the Dunn trade)
Rotation: Harang, Volquez, Arroyo, Cueto, and Ramirez
Pen: Cordero, Owings, Burton, Bray, Daniel Ray Herrera, and the Majic Man.
The first obvious weakness is at catcher. I'll tackle catcher in this post as the first part of our series. I don't know if Hannigan can hack it, but right now he's all we got. Wilkin Castillo is the only other catcher on the roster. Texas famously has four good, young catchers, but trading for one will be tough with the number of teams that need a catcher and a free agent market with no catchers (LaRue? Ross? Valentin? I've heard that one before.) If Texas does trade a catcher to the N.L. it better not be Teagarden, as the Blue Sox would lose him.
I would see what it would take to get Miguel Montero from the D'Backs, although Boston seems to have already beaten us to that idea. Another option would be to trade for J.R. Towels with the Astros. He was the 54th best prospect in baseball last year. But when handed a job, he blew it (which killed the Legends). Now might be a great time to get him and let he and Hanigan fight it out for PT.
Who could we trade? Good question. I bet the D'Backs would take Homer for Montero (they are reportedly demanding Masterson from the Red Sox (no relation)) although I'm not sure I'd make that deal. I'd be okay with trading Homer under the right circumstances, but his value has taken such a hit I would prefer to build up that value before shopping him (or keeping him). The D'Backs lost the O-Dog to free agency and always seem to need outfield help, so I would also dangle Freel and Hopper and see if I get a bite. If they would take Dickerson, I would do that in a minute, as his value will never be higher than it is right now, coming off of a surprising run in the Bigs at the end of the '08 season. (Plus, we have Drew Stubbs who can probably do what Dickerson probably can't re-do.) Freel, Hopper, and/or Dickerson might not get it done, but we might be able to throw in some organizational depth.
As far as the Astros, don't forget that Homer is from Texas. I think I would do Homer for Towels, a swap of two underperforming prospects. (And boy the Astros need starters.) Plus, the Astros drafted a catcher in the first round of the '08 draft who is now their best prospect. According to Rotoworld, the Astros don't think Towels is ready and are looking at free agent David Ross as a stopgap. Maybe it wouldn't take as much as Homer and we could send them Dickerson, Freel, or Hopper. I think he's ready. He hit historically poorly in the Bigs last year, but continued to hit in the minors. Guys like that always turn it around (paging Brandon Larson).
The Reds need a good, young catcher as evidenced by their use of their first pick on Devin Mesaraco in the 2007 draft, a catcher out of Punxsatawney, PA. He apparently saw his shadow, however, in his first year of pro ball and had a disappointing year. He is a long way from the Bigs and only the Reds' 11th best prospect, a two-star prospect at that. They have no catchers in their top ten. Montero or Towles would be a good investment.
Another option (and this really depends on whether the Reds plan to compete in '09) would be to sign a veteran like Greg Zaun to split time with Hanigan and help with the young pitchers. Cleveland and Baltimore may be willing to part with V-Mart and Hernandez, respctively, but I think that's too big a move for the Reds in terms of what they would have to give up and I wouldn't advise it at this time.
My suggestion: trade for Towels. I think he'd come the cheapest, and has great upside. Montero would be my second bet, and then a veteran signing as a last resort. They can always bring back Valentin who actually played a decent first base at the end of last year.
Next up: infield.