Andrew Perna. 3rd April, 2012 - 2:56 pm
The Cincinnati Reds believe they have a bright future and on Monday they made sure that Joey Votto will be a part of whatever success they have over the next decade.
Votto has agreed to a 10-year, $225 million contract from the Reds, a deal that represents the largest in franchise history. The pact reportedly includes a no-trade clause and will keep Votto under contract through the 2023 season.
The 28-year-old, who will be pushing forty at the end of the contract, had two years remaining on the $38 million deal he signed with the Reds last January. He would have been eligible to hit the free agent market after the 2013 season.
It is certainly a good time to be a slugging first baseman with a nearly complete swing. If the numbers reported in the deal are accurate, Votto becomes the third player at his position (Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder) to receive a contract worth more than $200 million since the end of the 2011 season.
While the financial commitment is significant for a smaller market team, especially if there is a no-trade clause in the deal, the Reds got exactly what they wanted by locking up Votto over the long-term.
Cincinnati first engaged in talks with Votto after he won the National League MVP award in 2010, the same season in which the team won the NL Central title. When they could not get Votto to commit over the long-term, they signed him to a three-year deal.
The deal comes at a perfect time for the Reds, who saw Pujols and Fielder leave the division for the American League this winter. Votto is now unquestionably the best first baseman not only in the division, but in the entire National League.
A two-time All-Star, Votto started hitting with regularity immediately back in 2008 during his first full season. That year he hit .297/.368/.506 with 24 home runs and 84 RBIs. He has improved his patience at the plate every season.
One of the most common knocks on Votto is that he plays 81 games at Great American Ball Park, but the numbers prove that he can hit anywhere. In his career, he has hit .329 with a .566 slugging percentage on the road. At home? Those numbers drop to .296 and .534.
Votto hits well against both lefties and righties, although he had an issue hitting changeups thrown by southpaws in 2011 (.250) and tends to struggle with strong sliders (.239).
He has improved his discipline as rarely chases pitches away. He can, however, be lured into swinging at pitches high, low or a bit inside. With that said, he is incredibly dangerous when a pitch is thrown in the strike zone and hits the ball to both fields (27% of balls in play to left, 20% to right).
The Canadian is also coming off a Gold Glove season.
The deal is a no-brainer for Votto, given the monetary value, job security and bright future with Cincinnati. The departures of Pujols and Fielder have increased his profile and MVP chances at the same time. The reported no-trade clause allows him to also control his future, especially since he will be a trade chip around 2020 when he is on the downside of his career while still carrying a hefty pricetag.
Grade for Votto: A
Cincinnati benefited from impeccable timing. They have an extremely talented young core and have now locked up their superstar for twelve more seasons as proof that they mean business. There are potential stars littered all over the roster (Zack Cozart, Drew Stubbs, Jay Bruce and Aroldis Chapman) and they have two of the top-35 prospects in the game to begin the season (according to MLB.com).
Grade for Reds: B
The only issue with this deal, as with that of Pujols and Fielder before him, is the amount of money that Votto will be owed when he is in his late thirties and his bat speed is not as fast and reaction time not as sharp.
However, that is not a concern right now with the Brewers and Cardinals likely regressing towards the mean a bit this season and the next. The Reds are primed to assume control of the NL Central.