Don’t be fooled by what seems like a fire-sale, as the Reds are still in the middle of the division race too. Shipping off Alfredo Simon (15-10, 3.44 ERA) and Mat Latos (5-5, 3.25 ERA) may seem like the Reds are giving up on 2015, but it’s quite the opposite.

They are simply dealing from an area of strength. First of all, Simon is 33 years old, and yes he was an All-Star in 2014, but at 33, who knows how much production the Reds would get out of him in 2015.

Second, Mat Latos has the makings of a very good pitcher, but sadly he can’t stay on the field long enough to prove it. The Reds rotation is still strong despite recent moves. They still have Johnny Cueto, an obvious ace (20-9, 2.25 ERA), Homer Bailey (9-5, 3.71 ERA before tearing his elbow flexor), Mike Leake (11-13, 3.70 ERA) and Tony Cingrani, who has a lot of potential (7-4 2.92 ERA in 2013).

That rotation doesn’t look bad at all, especially if Bailey can come back at full strength, and Leake’s W-L column is a little misleading because his ERA was fairly good. Cingrani has a ton of upside, and if he learns how to use it he’ll make a great #4 starter.

The only problem is the #5 spot which is projected to go to Dylan Axelrod, who had a 4.68 ERA in 100 IP. The Reds could go after someone like Aaron Harang to fill that spot. Guys that are low-risk, decent reward value. If the Reds were to give him say a 2-year $15 million dollar contract, and he gives them a couple years like he gave Atlanta in 2014, the Reds could cash in and remain in the hunt for the division.

The Reds also need Joey Votto to be healthy, because now that guys like Devin Mesoraco and Jay Bruce are showing up, as well as Billy Hamilton having a year under his belt, the Reds will need all hands on deck. It’s a bit of a tall order, but it is still something the Reds can achieve. If things bounce their way, the Reds could be deeper sleepers than the Brewers.

-Jake Hasan, MLB Writer for Baseball Essential

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