Reds aware of urgency to contend soon

If Cincinnati isn't in postseason race by Trade Deadline, club could be sellers

Reds aware of urgency to contend soon

CINCINNATI -- There has been speculation since the winter that the Reds might be pressed to move players if they were not contending before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. It has only intensified as the club lingers below .500 with pitchers like ace Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake in the final years of their contracts with Cincinnati.

The next several weeks could be critical in how the Reds proceed. Get back into contention and the assembled group likely stays together to make a run at the postseason. Keep slipping behind and a sell off and rebuilding could commence with Cueto, Leake, closer Aroldis Chapman and perhaps others being shopped for younger and less expensive talent.

"I think players are aware of that," Reds first baseman Joey Votto said. "I think collectively that we have our focus on winning and getting back into the playoff picture. We're not particularly concerned about it, but come July, all of a sudden we're not in a good place, I think we'll be quite a bit more aware of that."

The last time the Reds were true sellers was the 2008 and '09 seasons. In 2008, a big transition came when mainstays like Ken Griffey Jr. and Adam Dunn were traded. In 2009, Edwin Encarnacion was moved to the Blue Jays to get veteran third baseman Scott Rolen, who was viewed as a key piece for a contending team that would make the postseason in three of the next four seasons.

Reds right fielder Jay Bruce believes the potential of trading key players wasn't adding pressure inside the clubhouse.

"Obviously, we haven't played well this year," Bruce said. "I don't think that it's something where we're like, 'Oh man, we have to start playing better or everyone is going to get traded.' We understand it's a business and the team is looking out for its best interests. Every [team] has to plan for the future.

"That's the business of the game. ... Whatever is going to happen, is going to happen. We just have to be professionals, and be prepared and play."

While Votto and fellow veteran Brandon Phillips have no-trade clauses in their contracts, Bruce is signed through 2016 but has a relatively cost-friendly deal. He is earning $12 million this season, $12.5 million in '16 and has a $13 million club option for '17 with a $1 million buyout.

Bruce knows he could be moved to a team seeking a left-handed bat with power -- if the Reds aren't contenders.

"I know it's a possibility. Everybody is a possibility that can be traded," he said. "I signed a contract here to be here. I've stated a lot of times that my goal is to be a career Red. I still hope that works out, I really do. But you can't control it.

"We've had a lot of good experiences. We haven't gotten to the top of the mountain like we've wanted to. I've been a part of three playoff teams. Granted that one was the Wild Card, but to be able to say that is something I'm very proud of. You can't think about the future. You have to think about right now. Be in the present, be prepared to play ball. No one knows what's going to happen. I'm not even sure they know. It's still June and we can play better. We're better than we've played."

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Mark My Word, follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon and Facebook and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.