All the Dunn trade talk has gotten me thinking about how bad this Reds team is, and how far they really are from contention. I’ve now officially talked myself into believing that the Reds aren’t that bad. Here’s what I’d do, between now and next February. If this works out, they can easily compete in this division:

1. Try to trade Hatteberg and/or Conine for major-league-ready relievers or the best prospects I can get (any position, really). I don’t expect a ton for either guy, but they have *some* value. Once one of them is gone, get Joey Votto up here to figure out what he can do.

2. Promote all those relievers from AA to AAA, already.

3. Either get rid of Chad Moeller, or trade Javy Valentin to a team that can use him. They DO NOT need 3 catchers, and Jerry Narron can’t resist the temptation to use Moeller as his first PH off the bench.

4. Ditto for Juan Castro. “Defensive specialist” is not a role the Reds really need – not with Gonzalez at SS and EE being their only RH power source. They can’t take either of those guys out of the game, and Castro has no value as a pinch hitter, and can’t really fill in for Gonzalez over an extended stretch.

5. With the spot cleared by either Moeller or Castro, start auditions for next year’s bench. Herr, Keppinger, Bannon — let’s make sure that we know whether any of these guys can contribute next year.

6. As much as possible, define some roles for this bullpen. McBeth looks nice (kudos to Krivsky on that trade, so far); Coutlangus seems to have established himself. Stanton, like it or not, isn’t going anywhere. They need to sort out the rest of those guys: Salmon, Bray, Majewski, Burton, Coffey, Santos, Saarloos, Ricky Stone . . . that ought to be enough for the rest of the season.

7. Out of that group, the free agent market or low impact trades, find 3 good relievers to build around David Weathers. No need to spend a ton of money – just keep your eyes open. In the last year, the Padres have snagged Cla Meredith and Heath Bell as the second men in deals where they gave up the likes of Doug Mirabelli and Ben Johnson.

8. I don’t care who you call the closer — I know Weathers has done very well in VERY high leverage situations this year. I bet you that he’s pitched in more tough situations than any other closer (Narron relies on Weathers for every big out – contrast with a guy like Trevor Hoffman, who starts every outing with the bases empty and knows he has to get only 3 outs).

9. Find a right-handed bat to come off the bench with some power, and spell Votto against tough lefties. I like Conine, and he’s been great, but I’m thinking of someone with a touch more HR sock. . . . The more I look at his current numbers, though (.471 SLG), I can’t complain.

10. Figure out what to do w/ Kyle Lohse. The guy’s just too darn mercurial for my taste, but someday, that light might go on – and stay on, and you’re looking at a star.

Next year’s roster, if I’m in charge, would look something like this:

c – Ross, Valentin (or some other catcher not named “Chad Moeller”)
1b – Votto, RH Power Hitter
2b – Phillips
ss – Gonzalez, Keppinger-type
3b – EE, Freel
lf – Dunn
cf – Hamilton, Hopper
rf – Griffey

p – Harang
p – Arroyo
p – Homer
p – Belisle
p – Lohse/Livingston/Dumatrait/Gardner/Free Agent Retread

cl – Weathers
p – McBeth ?
p – Couter ??
p – Stanton ????
p – Coffey ?????
p – Bray ??????

That adds up to 24 spots (13 hitters and 11 pitchers). The initial instinct is to add that 7th reliever, but at the same time, I’ve got a bench with ZERO power on it, so you may need to build there.

After doing this exercise, I really think the Reds are pretty close to contending, especially in the Central.

Thoughts? What would you do differently? Would you blow it up, trade Dunn and Griffey and start over? Spend $10M on free agent relievers?