CINCINNATI -- Following a flurry of trades and other subtractions the past two years, the demolition portion of the Reds' rebuilding phase appears nearly complete. With Cincinnati hoping to take a step forward in 2017, general manager Dick Williams is looking to bolster areas of weakness and create playing time for young players that need to develop.
A prime opportunity to accomplish those goals will come next week during the 2016 Winter Meetings in National Harbor, Md. Whether that actually happens there, Williams couldn't tell just yet.
"We've had discussions with a bunch of clubs on different topics," Williams said. "Talks speed up and slow down. It's really tough to predict when they will come to fruition. The key is to keep as many irons in the fire as you can."
One of the bigger issues to sort out this winter is the makeup of the Reds' middle infield. Second baseman Brandon Phillips is headed into the final year of his contract. Shortstop Zack Cozart is arbitration-eligible for the third and final time, meaning he's a year away from first-time free agency. Phillips, 35, is due to earn $14 million in 2017 and has full no-trade protection. Although he declined to be traded last winter to the Nationals, he could be more flexible this time around.
"We've had inquiries on a lot of our players, the middle infielders included," Williams said. "But at the end of the day, there's got to be enough interest on the part of the acquiring club to get us to part with the asset. Right now, that hasn't happened."
As far as additions, the Reds would like to make improvements to the bullpen -- Cincinnati's biggest weakness in 2016. If possible, Williams would also like to sign a veteran starting pitcher to compete for the rotation's lone opening, shore up the bench and add veteran catching depth in case Devin Mesoraco isn't healthy enough to return from shoulder and hip surgeries.
The Reds, who don't plan on spending big in the free-agent market, are watching how the market develops.
"We're going to keep after it," Williams said. "The prices are always high early, and players go off the board and teams go off the board, and then the prices start to come down. You have to get in there early and start the discussions. Sometimes, you have to be patient to find the right deal."
MLB.com and MLB Network will have wall-to-wall coverage of the 2016 Winter Meetings from the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center outside Washington, D.C. Fans can watch live streaming of all news conferences and manager availability on MLB.com, including the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at 9 a.m. ET.
Often for the Reds at the Winter Meetings, the front office spends time going over the framework of potential moves, with the deals coming in the days and weeks after the Meetings' conclusion. Such was the case last year, when Todd Frazier was sent to the White Sox in a three-team trade with the Dodgers less than a week after the Meetings.
Now that former president of baseball operations Walt Jocketty has shifted into an advisor role, Williams will be the Reds' point person in any deal making. He was looking forward to his team converging and getting to work.
"I like the camaraderie of the Winter Meetings, because there are only two times all year where all the GMs are in one place together," Williams said. "But just as importantly, I also like it for the camaraderie of our Reds group. We really enjoy having that opportunity to be together for a week. In the downtime, you get to use it to do a lot of internal planning. It's a productive week, a lot of times, whether you're getting trades completed or not. It's a lot of working through different baseball scenarios."
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.