The Cincinnati Reds might find themselves in an unfamiliar position at the 2023 MLB trade deadline. Often out of contention by the middle of the summer, the Reds are usually sellers when the MLB trade deadline comes around. This year, Cincinnati could choose to become a buyer and add veteran talent to a roster that has a realistic chance to make the playoffs.

Reds' General Manager Nick Krall didn't rule out the possibility of Cincinnati being a buyer at the 2023 MLB trade deadline. A Reds' trade that doesn't simply replenish the farm system might make sense, given the state of the NL Central. The division has proven to be so weak that even a mediocre team has a chance to compete for first place and home-field advantage in the wild-card round of the MLB Playoffs.

Through 65 games, the Reds have a 30-35 record. In the NL East or NL West, the Reds would have virtually no chance to win the division. But this is the NL Central, where the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates only have a four-game edge on Cincinnati. Pittsburgh has crashed back down to earth after a hot April. The Milwaukee Brewers are also four games ahead of the Reds, which occupy sole possession of third place.

It would take a lot more than one Reds' trade to turn Cincinnati into a World Series contender. Even if the Reds manage to sneak their way into the playoffs, they will be long shots to go on any kind of extended postseason run. Trading valuable prospects for a rental or a player who is less than two years away from hitting free agency might not be the wisest idea.

That doesn't mean the Reds should stand pat. There are low-risk trades Cincinnati can explore that would improve the roster without mortgaging the team's future. Providing some playoff experience to the Reds' up-and-coming stars could prove to be invaluable for when Cincinnati is actually ready to compete.

What kind of moves should the franchise consider? Let's take a look at two early MLB trade deadline targets that the Reds should think about pursuing this summer.

Zack Greinke, Kansas City Royals

Zack Greinke is exactly the kind of player who the Reds should be targeting ahead of the 2023 MLB trade deadline. Greinke is signed to a relatively one-cheap one-year contract. If the Royals were to trade Greinke, they wouldn't ask for a haul of highly touted prospects in return. Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolio and Cleveland Guardians ace Shane Bieber might become the best players available on the market. The cost to acquire those starters is not something that the Reds should be willing to pay.

Greinke is no longer the ace he was during the prime of his career with the Royals or Los Angeles Dodgers. Four months shy of his 40th birthday, Greinke is 1-6 with a 4.59 ERA. Greinke's numbers might now be very encouraging, but they would be among the best on the Reds' staff. Cincinnati's rotation has a 5.95 ERA. It's the worst mark in the National League. Only the Oakland Athletics, on pace for the worst record in MLB history, have a worse rotation than the Reds. Greinke brings playoff experience, which Cincinnati also lacks.

It might take some convincing for the Reds to trade for Greinke. The veteran has a full no-trade clause in his contract. Maybe Greinke would jump at the chance to compete in one more pennant race before his MLB career comes to an end.

Brent Rooker, Oakland Athletics

A lot can change until the 2023 MLB trade deadline arrives, but it's pretty clear which teams should be the biggest sellers. The Royals' 18-46 record is so bad that Kansas City can't even compete in the only division that is weaker than the NL Central. The Royals have joined the Athletics as the two teams that will almost certainly be ready to unload any veterans who have value this season.

Brent Rooker is among the top candidates to be traded by Oakland. He's also a sensible fit for the Reds. Playing for his fourth team in as many years, Rooker is not signed to a lucrative contract. Rooker is good enough to help Cincinnati in the chase for a division title, but he's cooled off enough from his hot April that he won't cost Cincinnati an arm and a leg.

Rooker's incredible .358/.471/.791 slash line with nine home runs in 67 April at-bats proved to be a fluke. Following a brutal stretch in May, Rooker has leveled off with a .728 OPS in his last 15 days. Those numbers would make for a useful contributor in the Reds' outfield, given Cincinnati's injuries and underwhelming production in that area. At the very least, Rooker could be an upgrade over the likes of Will Benson, who was Cincinnati's starting right fielder in the team's latest victory.