Joey Votto remains sidelined with a torn meniscus, but the Cincinnati Reds continue to win even without their slugging Gold Glove first baseman.
At 57-40, the Reds lead the National League Central by two games over the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates. Cincinnati is one game behind Washington for the best record in the National League.
With a legitimate chance of winning the National League pennant, and Votto expected back in mid to late August, the Reds are expected to make a single move or multiple deals before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline.
The Reds are fortunate to play in the lackluster National League Central, which includes the woeful Houston Astros and Chicago Cubs, the suddenly rebuilding Milwaukee Brewers and the St. Louis Cardinals, which are 51-46 but not as good as they were last season.
Votto was batting .342 with 14 home runs, 49 RBI and a 1.069 OPS when he was placed on the DL. Still, the Reds are getting offensive production from second baseman Brandon Phillips (.298, 12, 58), Scott Rolen (.211 overall but .344 over his last 10 games) and Todd Frazier (.283, 10, 33, .879 OPS). Jay Bruce has 19 home runs and 60 RBI while Ryan Ludwick has 15 home runs and 43 RBI.
So what do the Reds need? Media reports indicate they are searching for an outfielder. Cincinnati has expressed interest in Boston’s Cody Ross, Ryan Sweeney and Ryan Kalish. Jim Bowden, a former Reds GM and current baseball analyst for ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio, reported that Cincinnati is talking to Philadelphia about center fielder Shane Victorino, and that the Phillies are interested in Reds reliever Logan Ondrusek.
Eager for a leadoff hitter, the Reds have also scouted Minnesota’s Denard Span, but the cost in terms of prospects will be deep.
With a steady rotation and a productive lineup that will regain more thunder when Votto returns, the Reds can contend with Washington to reach the World Series for the first time since 1990. Acquiring a tablesetting leadoff hitter like Victorino could be the move that gives the Reds an advantage in October.