CINCINNATI -- When the Reds resume their season on Friday, they will be under increased scrutiny that has less to do with the results on the field and everything to do with who might be moved before the Aug. 1 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
The rebuilding program that moved out veteran players wasn't entirely completed in the offseason. Two players in particular -- right fielder Jay Bruce and shortstop Zack Cozart -- have rebuilt their market value, and they could be two of the most sought after players over the next 2 1/2 weeks.
Bruce is in the final guaranteed year of his contract, and he can become a free agent if his option isn't picked up, making his departure all the more likely. Cozart can become a first-time free agent after the 2017 season. Although his value likely won't get much higher than it is now, he could stick around if the Reds don't like any offers they receive for him.
Less likely to be moved is second baseman Brandon Phillips, a 35-year-old former All-Star who has full no-trade protection and is signed through 2017. Phillips, who turned down a trade in the offseason, would likely clear waivers for any deal after Aug. 1. The Reds do have 22-year-old infielder Jose Peraza, but he needs more playing time to develop.
Cincinnati's previous trades largely helped it add pitching prospects. Now the Reds are seeking young talent, especially hitters, that they can contractually control for five to six years.
Bruce has a limited no-trade provision that includes eight teams. He's already on record that he would be open to waiving it, but only if the trade is beneficial to both him and the Reds. One of those teams, the Indians, need lefty-hitting outfield help while it waits for Michael Brantley to return. The Blue Jays, who are not on Bruce's no-trade list, almost acquired him before Spring Training, but the deal fell though over a medical red flag on a returning player. Toronto could still use a bat to get ahead in their heated contest in the American League East race.
WHAT ARE THEY PLAYING FOR?
The Reds knew this would be a painful season to go through, but not this painful. Cincinnati hopes its young pitching staff can turn the corner and provide a solid base to build from in 2017.
THE ROAD AHEAD
Better at Great American Ball Park this season, the Reds open the second-half with a nine-game home stand, and they also have a 10-game stay at home Aug. 15-24. A seven-day, six-game West Coast trip to San Francisco and San Diego (July 25-31) will take them into the Trade Deadline.
If there are no more setbacks, pitcher Homer Bailey could be activated from the disabled list and provide a veteran presence. Bailey, who last pitched for Cincinnati on April 23, 2015, before he had Tommy John surgery, has just two Major League starts in more than a calendar year because of injuries.
PROSPECTS TO WATCH
The Reds' No. 1 prospect and outfielder Jesse Winker, who missed a month with a right wrist injury, could be called up in September if he rebounds well. At some point, top pitching prospect Robert Stephenson will get another chance, and he may even come up for good. Also, look out for lefty pitcher and No. 4 prospect Amir Garrett, who was recently called up to Triple-A Louisville Bats.
Mark Sheldon has covered the Reds for MLB.com since 2006, and previously covered the Twins from 2001-05. 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.