Lately, it seems that every thread about what the Reds should do this off-season works its way around to some “trade Votto” talk. The idea behind this seems to be that they will be just fine with Yonder at first and that money can be better spent elsewhere. Let’s look at how accurate this idea is.
Joey Votto is putting up a season that, in terms of value, is almost identical to last season. He was worth 7.3 wins last year and is sitting on 6.9 for this year. Given that he’s at peak age, he’s probably a good bet to stay right around there over the next several years. This makes his free market value something in the neighborhood of $30M/year. He will make $9.5M next year and $17M after that. Just to be clear, the Reds figure to pay him $26.5M for about $60M in production. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a good deal.
But what about Yonder?
Certainly, he has looked good in limited time, and he’s been highly touted, but his minor league numbers aren’t in the same ballpark as Votto’s major league numbers. His major league equivalencies, over a season would make him Gaby Sanchez with less of a glove. That is, a league average player. Effectively, you would be losing 5 wins at first base. On the open market, that would cost you some thing north of $20M. Or more than twice what Votto will make next year. Even if you want to assume Alonso will see no drop off from the minors, the best you can hope for is 3 WAR and a 4 win drop from Votto.
But the Reds need pitching.
Over the last two years, Votto’s 14.2 WAR is second only to Bautista among position players. Only Halladay at 14.7 bests him among pitchers. The only other pitchers in the neighborhood are Lee, Verlander, and Sabathia. Good luck getting one of those guys in a trade, especially for the $9.5M trading Votto saves you next year.
What if we can get Bautista?
I still don’t know if you do it. The primary difference between Votto and Bautista is age. Bautista is 3 years older than Votto and, frankly, you have to wonder how long he can keep it up. We all know the story of his rise. Votto just seems like a better bet than Bautista and, in any case, he’s going to make about what Votto does over the next two years.
There are two things people miss that I think lead to the calls to trade Votto: 1. Truly special players don’t come along that often. Is Votto as good as Pujols has been for the last ten years? No, but he’s still on a near Hall of Fame career track. 2. There is tremendous value in getting so many wins from one player. Basically, it’s better to have a single 7 win player than several two and three win players because the 7 win guys are rarely paid as much as the combined salaries of the perfectly average players AND you can almost certainly find someone to play those other positions who provides above-replacement value, meaning you end up ahead of the game overall.
I know it’s tempting to look at Votto and think about what the Reds could get for him, but whatever it is, isn’t likely to help the team as much as hanging on to him.