In a parallel universe, Scott Rolen makes a good throw to Joey Votto in the top of the tenth inning of Game 3 of the NLDS, the Reds sweep the Giants, and go on to win their first World Series since 1990. Really, it's possible that Rolen's bad throw is all that really separated the Reds from a World Championship. The Reds were a really good team in 2012, they won a lot of games, and the ended up losing to the eventual World Champions by a narrow margin. So how do the Reds get back in 2013?
The Reds were a pretty complete team in 2012, and all of the main pieces will be back in place in 2013. They're going to lose Scott Rolen, Ryan Ludwick, Jonathan Broxton, and probably Ryan Madson (it's easy to forget Madson is a Red; they have a mutual option on him after he lost the entire 2012 season to Tommy John surgery) to free agency. The biggest concern from that group is Ludwick, who revitalized his career in Cincy in 2012 with a .275/.346/.531, 26 homer campaign that will cause him to look for a bigger payday than the $5 million mutual option he had with the Reds for 2013. With Broxton and Madson both hitting free agency, the bullpen looks a little thin, too, though it's much less of a concern.
Replacing Rolen will be easy enough, with Todd Frazier ready to step into an every day role at third base. Losing Madson and Broxton wouldn't be a huge deal, either, since Aroldis Chapman and Sean Marshall and Sam LeCure and Jose Arredondo and Alfredo Simon are all coming back. Honestly, the easiest way for the Reds to maintain contention into 2013 may just be to keep the whole gang together. If you think of Broxton as the final little bit of glue that really made the Reds bullpen into a force to be reckoned with, Madson could play the same role in 2013 and it's entirely plausible that he'd be willing to sign a one year deal with someone to prove he's healthy and parlay that into a bigger contract to close for someone after next season. Similarly, Ludwick may be looking for more than $5 million, but he's obviously a good fit for Great American Ballpark and he'll be way less expensive than the elite outfielders on the market. That said, Walt Jocketty seems to have identified a leadoff man as the team's top priority this winter (and rightly so, given that doesn't seem likely Drew Stubbs will grow into that role), which could mean that they'll turn to the free agent market to fill Ludwick's spot in the outfield.
Last winter's Mat Latos trade really took a chunk out of the Reds' farm system and it hasn't quite recovered yet. The guys that were their better prospects in the upper minors heading into 2012 are regulars on the club now (Frazier, Zack Cozart, and even Devin Mesoraco to a lesser extent). They're not likely to trade Billy Hamilton or Robert Stephenson at all, either. It's possible that Mesoraco's rough rookie year may cause the club to try and find someone that still values him relatively highly and just stick with Ryan Hanigan as starting catcher. They could also certainly find teams interested in left-handed starter Tony Cigriani and they have the rotation depth right now to trade him, but it's pretty unlikely that they'll go through 2013 using just five starters again and counting on that from the vantage point of the off-season would be pretty dumb, so I'm guessing they'd rather hang on to him.
If we assume that the Reds are interested in replacing Ludwick with a leadoff hitter, that they're not going to be willing to spend huge for the likes of Michael Bourn on the free agent market, and that they're not going to want to make another huge deal that raids their system of prospects for a second straight season, than the above-linked article that guesses that they could try to trade for Coco Crisp seems like a pretty good guess at what the Reds might look for on the trade market this winter. In any case, the Reds don't really need to do a lot this winter, so any sort of trade they might make would be for a player like crisp, or maybe to add a bit more depth to the rotation or bullpen. For the most part, though, it's likely the Reds will try to make another run with the group that won them 97 games last year and it's easy to see why they'd want to do that.