Over the course of the off-season, we’ll be taking an in-depth look at Cincinnati’s strengths and weaknesses, and what GM Walt Jocketty can do to improve the club. I know we’ve been debating just this topic ad nauseum, but in the interests of trying to kill this horse so we can beat it further during the off-season, I thought we’d jump right in.

It’s pretty clear — to me, anyway — that there are four primary areas the Reds are going to need to address:

1. LF
2. SS
3. C
4. 3B

1. The most pressing area of need is left field, and nothing is really close, as far as I’m concerned. Cincinnati left fielders (primarily Jonny Gomes, of course) were among the National League’s worst, both offensively and defensively. We all love Gomes (well, most of us), but he isn’t the answer. Other than about six weeks of excellent offensive production, Gomes was as bad as anyone in the league at that position.

What do we want from LF? An easy in-house solution to this problem would be to install Chris Heisey in LF. Heisey may or may not hit better than Gomes, but he should get on base more often, and he would be a substantial improvement defensively. If nothing else, it’s an almost guaranteed slight improvement.

Of course, since the Reds are likely to have decreased production from at least two spots next year (3B and C), it would be nice to see the Reds go out and acquire a big bat for left field. It will never happen in a million years, but the acquisition of soon-to-be free agent Carl Crawford would be a huge upgrade. Yes, I’m dreaming here.

My predictions: (A)the Reds will sign Jonny Gomes to a one-year deal, and he’ll be the Opening Day left fielder for the Reds; and (B) I will pull my hair out.

2. The Reds are going to have to figure out what they’re going to do at SS. Again, there’s an easy solution: give the job to Paul Janish. He’ll probably hit as well as Orlando Cabrera did this year, but his defense should be among the league’s best. There aren’t many SS who can hit, and who would be available. I’m fine with the Reds just handing the job to Janish.

Six weeks ago, I would’ve predicted that Cabrera would return. Now, I’m not so sure. Are there any other ways to upgrade the position? Maybe Stephen Drew, but I don’t see any free agents who could be expected to help.

3. The Reds got great production from the catchers this year. We’ll have to see what they do with Ramon Hernandez; the club has an option on Hernandez for $3.25 million next year. I expect that they will exercise that option, but it’s something to be watched.

I do not expect that the catchers will produce next year as well as they did this year, but the Hernandez/Ryan Hanigan duo is a pretty good one in comparison to the rest of the league.

4. Cincinnati absolutely must find a caddy for Scott Rolen at 3B. The last two months have shown us that Rolen can’t be expected to be healthy and productive for an entire season. He played more games this year than he’s played in half a decade, and by the end, he looked worn down and he was almost worthless to the team. The Reds should make it a priority to find a good backup.

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A related question is posed by Red Reporter this morning: “Are you willing to part with some of the starting pitching depth to get a quality starting option in left field or at shortstop? If so, which pitchers are you most likely to part with? Would you trade Wood or Leake? How about Bailey or Cueto or Volquez?”

Obviously, Yonder Alonso is destined to be traded, but the Reds are going to be forced to seriously evaluate their pitching to determine who they are comfortable dealing. They have a surplus of good young pitching. Which of those pitchers would you trade?

Okay, what are your thoughts? What areas are the problem spots, and who would you trade to address those weaknesses?