I can’t figure out how I feel about Joey Votto’s 10-year, $225 million extension with the Cincinnati Reds. It seems like a good deal in certain respects, but the gamble the Reds are taking on him shouldn’t be that big of a deal when this is essentially a regular contract for the richest five teams in baseball.
In the end, it’s probably a good contract for the franchise while Votto is in his prime. He’s been a 25 HR, 30 double guy for four years now and has a career .955 OPS. He won the NL MVP in 2010 and nearly matched that season in 2011. He also would have received similar money when he hit free agency. Cincy needed to either bite the bullet and lock him down or go back to small-market mediocrity. I have to give the Reds credit for choosing the former.
The Padres were in a virtually identical position with Adrian Gonzalez in 2010, and Gonzalez was a hometown guy too. Because of ownership issues – issues that still aren’t resolved – there was no way the Padres could afford to re-sign A-Gon, so they traded him to Boston for several top minor league prospects, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Phillips and I (along with tons of other Padres fans) gushed about Rizzo’s minor-league numbers. Then he made his MLB debut with that much-too-long swing and virtually no hope of repeating those same numbers in Petco Park.
At least the Padres flipped him to the Chicago Cubs (in exchange for Andrew Cashner) and then sent young right-hander Mat Latos to – wait for it – Cincinnati for Edinson Volquez and prospects Yasmani Grandal and Yonder Alonso. I have no idea how they found two high-quality prospects whose names both start with “Y,” but they did it.
This was a nice deal for both sides. Grandal and Alonso are both highly-rated prospects, but the Padres were forced to do what most small-market teams do in the Votto/Gonzalez situation: lose their stars and hope the prospects they got in return are going to work out. It’s a pretty vicious cycle since the team(s) would be in the same position again in a few years if any of those prospects really did work out.
Even a moderately rich team like the Cardinals couldn’t afford to keep Albert Pujols because of the price he commanded. Actually, it wasn’t the price so much as the percentage of the team’s total salary that he would consume every year, a position the Reds are in now with Votto. He will eat up to 25 percent of their overall yearly salary two years from now until he’s about 40 years old. His deal has already caused rumblings that second baseman Brandon Phillips is on his way out of Cincinnati since the sides are working on an extension but are far apart.
The NBA actually worked to fix the problem of less well-off teams losing their stars, but MLB seems happy to let things like this keep happening whether it’s with Votto, Gonzalez, C.C. Sabathia or tons of others. And there’s still plenty of action on the free-agent and trade markets in the NBA to keep fans and franchises very interested. I’m pretty sure that’s all Bill Simmons writes about anymore.
So hey, congratulations to the Reds for securing their franchise guy. They did what the Cardinals, Padres, and Brewers couldn’t do in recent years. They are trying to buck the ridiculously unfair financial system in baseball so they have a shot at winning now.
I say good luck to them. That is, until Votto’s production falls off in a few years and we are all mocking this deal.