It’s nearly Christmas and, as such, we should spend time thinking about the greatest gift baseball has given us in the last decade. I speak, of course, of Joey Votto. (Okay, okay, he’s probably really second behind Johnny Cueto’s Instagram).

We’ve pretty much all been on Hall of Fame watch with Votto since 2010. We have now reached the point where the majority of his career and certainly the majority of his value are behind him. He’s about to enter his age-33 season, so it seems like a good time to see what his chances are.

In order to get a good sense of where he stands among other Hall of Fame first basemen. I removed players who had the majority of their playing time in the 19th century, added Jeff Bagwell (who seems on track to be inducted this year) and put together a chart over at FanGraphs. Here’s what it shows.


It’s really busy, but if you take a little time with it, some interesting things are revealed. For further assistance, here’s a link to the interactive version, which helps in finding everyone. There’s a first tier of Gehrig, Musial, and Foxx. Votto is not as good as any of them. This is not surprising. Those are your inner-circle first basemen.

Fourth is Jeff Bagwell. He’s kind of hanging out there by himself with his 80.2 career WAR.

At the bottom, you have George Kelly and Jim (second from the) Bottomley, who clearly don’t belong.

That leaves a pack of 8 players. Now you have to go to the interactive version or look real hard at the age-32 season for those players. You’ll find Votto and his 46.7 WAR right smack in the middle (yellow diamond, no seasons after age-32). Votto, Harmon Killebrew, and Orlando Cepeda all sit right on top of each other. These two — Killebrew and Cepeda — tell us what Votto needs to do.

Cepeda, if we’re being honest, probably doesn’t belong. He had one more good season and then he was basically done. Killebrew, however, managed to be an excellent player through his age-36 season and no one really doubts that he deserves his place in the Hall.

After 36, well, it’s not a pretty picture. Among everyone on the chart, Stan Musial is the only player to accumulate more than 4 WAR after his age-36 season. These are the greatest first basemen ever and they were all basically done at 36.

So, realistically, Votto needs to get himself to around 60 WAR in the next 4 years to be a serious contender. That’s an average of 3.3 WAR/year. If he averages 4.5 WAR/year during that time, he’s in the mid-60s and becomes something like a sure thing.

And that’s all pretty easy to imagine. Votto has just finished a couple of big years, but he does have an injury history. If his legs hold up, he’s probably in. If they don’t, well, it might never happen. But chances are, when Joey Votto has his 36th birthday, we will know if we need to think about reserving a hotel room in Cooperstown about 10 years later.

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing atΒ Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel,Β When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.

Join the conversation! 150 Comments

  1. Geez, if he’d only not take so many walks! lol. Really like the comparative first baseman who are borderline HOF candidates. If Joey can avoid the D L, I think he makes the HOF.

  2. Votto is currently top 20 all time (not among 1B, among all batters) in OBP, OPS, and OPS+. This willemite him an advantage relative to a career evaluated solely on counting stats. And he has the requisite awards (MVP, All Star games, Gold Glove, though, oddly, no silver sluggers). Many have suggested that his skill set, which is not based primarily on power or speed, will deteriorate a bit more slowly than for many players who are more power or speed guys. And he plays a somewhat less demanding position in the field which may help him avoid traumatic or chronic injury. Bottom line, if Votto stays healthy I think he’s a lock.

    • Oops. “This will give him an advantage…”

    • I tend to agree. If he stays healthy, I see him getting in. Especially if he’s able to turn around his defense to merely below-average levels. His D numbers were about a full win worse for him in 16 than on average. He might need those few extra WAR to convince some people.

      Start taking some grounders, Joey! πŸ˜‰

  3. I tend to think most of Votto’s chance will center around how much the electorate’s collective mind changes over the next 17 years or so in regards to rate stats versus counting stats.

    Votto is fairly likely to retire as one of the 30 best hitters of all-time based on wRC+ and OPS+ (given his position in the teens now, then accounting for his decline phase). And, could also stick in the Top 20 all-time in OBP.

    Given that he will not have had a “short” career, those two things alone should (in a sabermetric world) be enough to get him in.

    Based on counting stats, I did a BR Play Index search a few months ago, and used the following arbitrary marks (IIRC) that I think Votto should be able to get fairly easily. 300 HR, 2000 H, 1000 BB, 1000 R, .300 BA, .400 OBP. Every player who has hit all those marks is in the HoF or is someone tainted by PEDs in some way.

    Ultimately, I think it’ll be supremely important for Votto to reach 300 HR and maintain a .300 BA. Those are his only 2 “traditional” marks that some voters might care about.

    • I think you hit the nail on the head with these career numbers. He can reach these the next 3 years if he stays healthy. I’d like the Reds to proactively build-in days off for him…. 2 a month…. with a goal of 145- 150 games played. Let Adam Duvall play 15 games a year at first base.

      He has a great chance to be the top NL player of this decade. He won the NL MVP in 2010 and has had 4 top-10 finishes with elite 2015/2016 seasons. Former competitors for that title are now in the rear view mirror- Ryan Braun( PED asterisk) and Andrew McCutcheon(performance.) Buster Posey and Paul Goldschmidt and Carlos Gonzalez( Coors asterisk) and Freddie Freeman and Giancarlo Stanton(injuries) are worthy names but should finish behind him as 2010-2020 NL player of the decade….at the current pace. The young studs – Harper and Bryant etc., – are too late for this decade.
      Joey Votto is a master craftsmen and hitting technician. With three years left in this decade, he is my choice as the best NL player of this decade. He is also the best Reds hitter since Pete Rose.

  4. I think Votto’s chances of accumulating 2-3 WAR in his age 36-40 seasons is actually pretty high (at least at the plate ignoring defense). Why? Because he is in superior conditioning to those “old timers” and he has shown that he can still get on base even thru terrible leg injuries. In 2012 and 2014 he was still able to post 4 WAR basically just standing at the plate and swatting at the ball getting singles and taking walks. I think Votto could hit almost no HR each year and still be adding value (say .285/.380/.410 slash).

    • Problem is, a .790 OPS with poor defense at 1B and poor base running is probably a replacement level (0.0 WAR) player or so.

    • Yeah, maybe. But only Stan Musial has ever done that before. Stan. Musial. So Votto would have to be just about unique in baseball history. Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but I don’t like to bet on unique.

  5. Hey…I’ve seen this movie before.It’s call “The Ken Griffey Jr Contract years 2000 to 2009 nine consecutive seasons of under .500 baseball and resulting erosion of Red’s fan base” Look for it in your TV guide πŸ™‚

    • Wasn’t Griffey’s fault that the team was bad. Although, when a small-market team makes a high payroll commitment to one player, that player needs to be on the field more often than not and Griffey wasn’t able to do that. The bigger issue however was that money wasn’t spent on the rotation and the Reds had a terrible time developing any sort of pitching with a few short-lived exceptions.

      We have to hope that at 1B rather than CF, the chance for Votto to have the kind of injury problems that Griffey did is much lower. We also have to think that with the way salaries are sky-rocketing, Votto’s salary as a percentage of total payroll won’t be as high as Griffey’s was during some of those crap years. Stay tuned as only time will tell.

      • not pointing fingers at JR or Votto…just in the strategy of trying to build a team around one very expensive player.And all I’m doing is showing one possible scenario….one that I have see first hand.Where I live during those losing Red years the Indianapolis Colts suddenly began to win and guess what?? Suddenly all the sports fans in my area who were Reds fans suddenly become Colt fans because sport fans love a winner.This can go one of two ways…either as I described or Red’s (maybe) can build a good team around JV and his contract.Like you said…stay tuned for further developments πŸ™‚

        • You go on about contracts a lot, but I’ve yet to see you provide examples to illustrate how you think a winning team should be built. It’s not at all unusual for a few players to take up a lot of the salary on a good team. In fact, that SHOULD happen because good teams typically have a lot of young talent and, in baseball, young talent is relatively cheap. You pay a premium for older talent when it is exceptional (Votto) and/or fills a hole.

          Good teams have stars and stars, young or old, need to be on the field. It’s not so much about salary. Kris Bryant, for instance, is cheap, but if he got hurt, the Central would get competitive quickly because no matter how much money there is, he isn’t really replaceable.

        • Good points, Jason. Talented baseball players are not an inexhaustible pool. You can either pay a lot for a Votto, or you can pay a little for a non-Votto.

          Also, $25M per year is not longer a lot of money. And will continue to be less money as the contract ages.

          I’ve venture in Votto’s last year, he won’t even be one of the Top 30 paid players in the game.

        • Jason…I’m not a baseball GM but if a team finish’s it’s season 35 games back and last in it’s division 2 consecutive years…and suddenly $81,000,000 was dropped into his lap and he couldn’t find a way to improve that team….he’s not much of a GM..

        • Define “improve.” You take Votto out, you drop the team another 5-6 wins in terms of talent. Making them a 62 or 63 win team instead of a 68 win team.

          BP made his money already. That deal was fair. If we complain about it now, we have to acknowledge that he was underpaid at the beginning, when the Reds were VERY good.

          Homer? Yeah. Injuries suck.

          Dexter Fowler is about to start making 16.5M a year to be a 3-4 win player next year. Like all players, he might get hurt and will decline with age.

          I’m not a GM, but it seems to me small market teams have to accept the risks with their big signings, but as long as they develop prospects, they should be okay in the long run, though there will be down years as the team turns over. You know, like what’s happening with the Reds right now.

    • Griffey produced 10.2 WAR for the Reds over 9 seasons. Votto has produced 46.7 WAR in the same period of time.

      • Boom!

      • not comparing apples to apples….when Votto is done and his numbers are added as he gets toward end of his career then you can make that comparison.but not today..

      • and even then the issue isn’t how well Votto plays…it’s how he fits into total picture of the team.If you really believe JV’s contract doesn’t put a kink in Reds payroll and resulting quality of Reds team y’all need to put your head out of the sand..

        • Bob,

          The Jayson Stark article mentioning the constraints the Reds face, encapsulates the concerns you, me and others have.


          “So four players — Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Brandon Phillips and Devin Mesoraco — are gobbling up $62 million of what is likely to be about a $90 million payroll. And they can’t move any of them.”

          I admire the passion that some people have on RLN for Joey Votto. But, to me, he is a great player (HOF?) whose contract is, and will be, an albatross for where the Reds are at (a last place team) and their payroll/market size.

          Look at how the A’s and the Pirates hand out contracts, especially how Pittsburgh is not giving Andrew McCutchen an extension. McCutchen inspired a generation of fans to care about Pirates baseball. The Pirates cannot afford to keep McCutchen around for his age 40 season like Votto, even though it is very likely he sells more tickets and “moves the needle” attention/ratings-wise much more than Votto.

          • See, this is a perfect example of a comment critical of the Votto contract that isn’t specific enough. Is the issue *this* offseason? You seem to be talking about that since that’s all the Stark article is about. What better way do the Reds have to spend $22 million in 2017 than Votto? Then you switch and talk about Votto’s “age 40 season” as if that supports the same point. It doesn’t. For one thing, Votto’s contract isn’t guaranteed in his age 40 season. But talking about 2022-23 without considering the context of rising salaries and payroll spending in baseball is meaningless. By then, Votto’s $25 million will buy 2 WAR in the marketplace.

            If this really comes down to the 2022-23 seasons, then it’s missing the point of contracts like Votto got. There isn’t anyone who thinks investing that much money in a 38-39 year old player for those seasons provides good odds of paying off. That’s not the point. All these contracts are bad in the out years. But that’s the going rate for what the superstars provide in the interim, and Votto has surely done that.

            But that’s an entirely separate issue from “Votto’s contract is preventing the Reds from getting better right now” — which it isn’t.

        • Bob – your opinion is reasonable, just not relative to Votto. It would be very, very hard to take $20 million this off season and turn it into 5 WAR. 20 GMs are going to try and do exactly and maybe only 3 of them will succeed. Those 3 will try next year, and fail miserably.

          Joeys contract last year was an absolute steal in hindsight. At the start of the year, as injury etc was a future possibility, its modified value was different because of the big unknown, but looking back now it was money very well spent.

          Your reasoning would be more appropriately applied to Homer Bailey at this stage, or to whatever we’re still paying Walt jocketty. These dollars are not as well allocated at this point.

          Not Theo Epstein, not Bob Howsam, not any GM could in a sample run of 10 tries could spend that money better than the Votto money was spent 10/10 times.

        • Too much money in too few players….that’s the drum I’m beating too.Ya know I hate to say this but maybe as fans we don’t expect enough from Reds,that watching Votto do his thing should make us happy while we ignore the rest of the ugly details. In years I have been a fan of this club I’ve seen them win 3 World Series so I know what a real joy that is….not many things better than that for a baseball fan.And I’m wondering if a lot of these guys are too young to remember any of that….it has been many years since Reds were in that discussion.Needless to say….I’ve never been a good loser (when I was a kid some of my games ended with fist fights πŸ™‚ ….. and old age hasn’t changed any of that.I still want to see this club win and until they get back on that righteous path,don’t expect me to be kind to any of the players….

          • The Reds were in the “win the World Series” discussion in 2012. I bet most of the people here remember back that far.

        • Steve…being in post season,coming back to GABP and being swept 3 games to end your season ain’t even in same time zone as winning a WS,just another year of coming up short…

          • You didn’t say “winning” the world series, you said being in the discussion. The 2012 Reds, who won 97 regular season games and came within a run of beating the team that eventually won the World Series were certainly in the discussion.

  6. “Clark, about Joey Votto, that’s the gift that keeps on giving all year long.”

    • It sure is WV!

    • Just re-watched that the other night. ‘Tis the season: “A Christmas Carol” at Playhouse in the Park, “Scrooged”, “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, “We’re no Angels” (the original with Bogart and Ustenof), “White Christmas”, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, “Elf”, “A Christmas Story”, and a handful of the cartoons.

  7. Help me here guys. I’m not an expert in these stats, but to what extent does WAR and other advanced stats depend on a teams overall performance. In other words, how much does Votto’s WAR (at least the offensive side) depend on the people in front and behind him. Are the greats even greater because they played on great teams?

    • WAR is about as team independent as a stat can be. The idea actually is based on Bill James’ “Win Shares” which he created to compare players of different eras. The intent was to remove era and teammates as much as possible and to quantify things that players have the most control over. Of course no stat is completely team independent because pitchers pitch around guys depending on who is coming up and situations and such, but those small factors don’t really make a giant difference in the big picture. WAR does a pretty good job in showing a quick and dirty figure for what a player has contributed. I have some reservations about how the defensive pieces of the statistic are derived and about positional weighting but as a quick and dirty metric for comparing players, it’s pretty darn solid.

    • I’ll just say “ditto” to what LW just wrote. WAR is designed to be context-neutral.

      For example, in the WAR framework a solo home run while down by 10 runs is worth as much as a go-ahead 3-run homer. They are both a home run, and it’s not your fault that your teammates weren’t on base in the first example or that your pitchers gave up tons of runs.

      • OK…but a go-ahead 3-run homer IS more valuable and more likely to lead to a ‘win’ than a solo home run while down by 10. i promise to read in more detail how WAR is calculated, but on my cursory read, wins relate to runs, which depends on other players getting on base or hitting him in. Now, if these are averaged based on opportunities missed or taken advantage of, then I guess the data would be normalized. Joey has a runner on second x number of times and he hits him in y number of times. The fact the Reds might not put runners on second in front of Joey very often, doesn’t necessarily impact the percentage by which Joey will hit him in. I apologize if I’m being just too ill-informed.,

        • If you want to get into it, a context stat you can look at is WPA. It weights how much each PA helps or hurts the team’s chances of winning. That said, WPA leaders are generally the best hitters for obvious reasons, but they are also more volatile because, for all the noise made about it, who’s good in the clutch isn’t really predictable and changes wildly from year to year. This is because players can’t simply decide to homer or single to left or whatever. Baseball is hard.

  8. The Votto haters just need to give it up. Joey has never been my favorite player but talent is talent and he deserves everything he is getting and his contract is not hurting the Reds. Bailey’s and Mes’s Yes but that is bad luck more than anything. Philipps yes it was a poor decision by FO. But Votto has produced more than the value of his contract. Now just build the team around him.

  9. The “Votto’s contract is an albatross” comments never specify a time frame or work out the specific alternatives.

    Certainly not last year when Votto produced $40 million in value for $20 million. Or the year before that when he produced $60 million in value for $14 million. There is no conceivable way to spend that amount of money for that return any other way.

    What about this year? Another $40 million production for $22 million. As Jason and others have pointed out, could the critics please explain how the Reds could produce $40 million in value for $22 million dollars – and remember, spreading it out over several players makes it less valuable since it takes away the production from current players in those positions.

    As you lunge for the easy conclusion that Votto won’t be worth his contract in the out years, say 2022-23, remember that by then, WAR will cost $12 million on the open market and the Reds will likely be spending more than $150 million/year in payroll. Please explain how $25 million is an insurmountable drain.

    If your point is that the money the Reds will spend on Votto this year prevents them from taking *that money* and spending it on a free agent, please identify the free agent that would be more valuable that the Reds could sign with that money. Just try it.

    • And if the Reds would put a couple of high OBP players in the lineup ahead of Votto, his value would likely increase from what it is already. With the increase in run production that would have, Votto might get back up to a 6-7 fWAR player again.
      Short-sighted folks are just content to focus on the obvious, the money, without peeling a few layers back and examining the actual facts. It is easy to blame Votto’s contract for the Reds alleged budget woes. But those woes are self-imposed and self-inflicted, and are mostly due to some misguided front office moves. Votto’s contract was not one of those misguided moves. Not putting better OBP players in the lineup ahead of Votto over the last 4 or 5 or 6 seasons has been the front office’s #1 misguided move.

    • I’ll take a stab at this one, Steve:

      Given that we know Votto’s WAR is set to decline steadily over the next few seasons, but he still has some value as of right now, the Reds should look into trading him for a young 1B of the future. Votto’s final productive years (most likely 2017-2019) are set to occur when the Reds are just rounding into compete mode again, meaning his production would be wasted here. Don’t you think there is a team in win-now mode who wouldn’t mind reaping the rewards of Votto’s production over the next few years? A player like Votto can be the missing piece to put a team over the top.

      So my proposal is, if you can find a take, trade Votto to one of these teams in win-now mode and take a flier on a 1B of the future. Some possible target are:

      Cody Bellinger – Dodgers

      Rowdy Telez – Blue Jays

      Bobby Bradley – Indians

      I know none of these guys are a sure-thing, but given that the rest of the Reds team is fairly young, can they really afford to have an aging Votto at 1B just when they are set to compete again? 1B is one of the most important offensive positions and you cannot afford to lose productiont there.

      Additionally, the money saved from trading Votto could let the Reds address one of their other weak spots, namely LF.

      You aren’t going to replace Votto’s production this season by doing this, but there’s a very good chance that by 2020, at least one of the 1B I listed will be putting up more value than Votto at that point, which would be right in the window when the Reds are set to compete again. This is what the Reds should be targeting. Votto has very high value right now, and it’s wasted on a team going nowhere for a few more seasons. Acknowledge that and take a stab at the future. It’s a gamble, sure, but isn’t a gamble better than the sure thing of Votto’s declining production? What have we got to lose?

      • Votto’s decline is not “set.” Players, on average, begin to decline at his age or before, but averages are calculated by factoring in outliers at both ends of the spectrum and everybody in between. Votto has shown definite signs that he will be the sort of outlier we want: Productive at a high level well past what would be expected of an average player. I’m also not certain that leftfield is a legitimate weak spot, given Duvall’s decent performance last season and the possible emergence of Winker.. And I certainly hope that the Reds are competing before 2020.

        • You can bet on Joey Votto being an outlier, but the whole point of this article was that even the greatest 1B in history were basically done by age 36. Joey Votto may be different, but as Jason said in an earlier post: “Doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but I don’t like to bet on unique.” The prudent approach is to look at the data that we have available to us and move accordingly, and that data suggests Joey Votto will be generating about 0-1 WAR in about 3 years’ time.

          However, in the 3 years leading up to that time, he should still have some value, which means the Reds could maximize that value in trading him for more pieces of the future. Joey Votto’s contribution to the team is wasted here.

          Also, take a look at this:

          Tucker Barnhat – Age 26
          Joey Votto – Age 33
          Dilson Herrera – Age 22
          Jose Peraza – Age 22
          Eugenio Suarez – Age 25
          Billy Hamilton – Age 26
          Scott Schebler – Age 26
          Jesse Winker – Age 23
          Nick Senzel – Age 21

          These are the ages of the players that will ostensibly be part of the next Reds juggernaut, although I hope they can do better than Tucker as the starting catcher, and I’m not sold on Schebler either. Given that ages 26-30 are generally considered to be the “prime” years, you can see that most of the players are still about 3-4 years away from reaching their full potential. I’m not saying the Reds can’t compete with a bunch of 24-25 year olds, I’m just saying what the data suggests, and that is: by the time the current players on this team are reaching their peaks, Joey Votto will most likely be producing very little to no value on the field.

          I know my trade scenarios are not very likely to happen, given that their parent teams probably want to hold onto the players for the same reasons the Reds would want them. But we could hope for a “win-now” desperation, and for a team valuing 3 years (and possibly more) of elite level production from Joey Votto as opposed to the young 1B in the minors. Toronto in particular has a conspicuous opening at 1B now that EE has moved to Cleveland, and Rowdy Tellez just so happens to be…..wait for it…. 21 years old, same as Nick Senzel. They could be Rizzo/Bryant for the Reds in a few years.

          Look, I love Joey Votto, and I’m happy I get to watch him ply his trade on my favorite team. But this isn’t about emotional decision, this isn’t Carl Lindner stepping in to give a 36 year old Barry Larkin a 3 year contract, this is business, and business is about planning for the future and maximizing value. Joey Votto still has value as a player for at least a few more seasons, and that value is wasted on a team like the Reds. But as a trade chip, the Reds could truly get useful value and set themselves up to compete for years to come.

        • The Reds should be open to trading votto. But I don’t see him agreeing to it with 10/5 rights and I don’t see the Reds getting fair return.
          I do think in 2017 with a player like JV who is as rigorous and meticulous with his preparation as perhaps any player ever….And playing a position that’s easier on the body than say CF on AstroTurf at Riverfront in the late 1980’s….Historical comparisons aren’t necessarily apropos. Modern trainers and facilities and attention to performance enhancement in the hands of Joey Votto….He can play to age 38/39 and be productive….I would cut his games to 145-150 though to give his body rest and maintenance .

  10. The rebuild is frustrating to fans. No doubt. I’ve been plenty critical of how the Reds have handled specific aspects of it. Some of it they’ve done OK, other parts I don’t like.

    Fact is, these 14 players will play for league minimum this year: Winker, Stephenson, Reed, Herrera, Garrett, Schebler, Peraza, Duvall, Finnegan, Straily, Lorenzen, Barnhart, DeSclafani and Suarez.

    That’s 14 out of a 25-man roster that costs about $7-7.5 million.

    So if 4 players “gobble up” $62 million from a $90 million payroll, that means 18 players make about $70 million, leaving another $20 million to spend. Iglesias is $4 million. Plus Billy Hamilton a couple million. Cozart, if not traded.

    Would it be better if the Reds had $40 million to spend on those last few players instead of $10 million? Sure. But that money gets used up awfully fast in the free agent market. No way you could begin to replace Votto’s 5+ WAR with his $22 million. Not even close.

    Moving into the future, Phillips contract goes off in 2018, Mesoraco goes off in 2019 and Bailey goes off in 2020.

    Again, what years are people talking about Votto’s contract being an undue burden?

    • Its perception of the now. We look at the playrole for the last and up coming season, just like Jason Stark does, and see 90 million and how can the team afford to pay anyone 25 million or 62 for just 4 guys. Quickly have we forgotten the 2 prior years of 115 million plus. We ignore the 20 plus million spent this past year on draft and international signing bonuses. We can only guess at the windfall of the new cable contact (unless the numbers have been reported I missed it). When our current “starting” middle infield will cost ~20 million next year, but only 1.2 million in 2018 is completely ignored.

      The failing of the media, especial the national media, is a lack of understanding or disinterest in the long term fiscal operation of the teams. They assume what the teams spend this season is what they can and will be able to spend next year or 5 years down the road.

      I know folks like to point at the Indians for their low and balanced payroll, but ask yourself how much will it cost to keep F Lindor in Cleveland for his career.

      Heck, can the Cubs even afford to pay open market pricing to keep Bryant, Russell, and Beaz together when they hit UFA status?

      Steve, I appreciate your writing on the Reds’ long term budget that you’ve put on the site.

  11. One more time….it’s not that JV is worth the money or not,it’s the % of Reds payroll that it eats up.You guys can spout WAR and stats all day and it boils down to this fact…he’s one guy of 25 Reds depend on to win games.And obviously when lion’s share of your budget goes to one player the rest of the team has to be worked out on a budget and with Reds that isn’t much $$$.So you have to build rest of roster with limited funds…and you end up a batting order that’s full of holes.And a bullpen with guys like Ross Ohlendorf,Kevin Gregg,Alfredo Simon,Jumbo Diaz….are you going to tell me if Reds weren’t financially constrained these are the guys they would have chosen?? Really??

    • You don’t get it, Bob. You keep espousing that his % of the payroll is a detriment. Tell me HOW. Stop repeating the same stuff over and over.

      Tell me what 3-4 players you’d go get RIGHT NOW for $22M that would be somewhat likely to outproduce Votto + the other guys the new signees displace.

      THAT is the point. Concentrating value into one roster slot is a net positive because you don’t incur the opportunity cost of replacing the value of other players, as well.

      And since you mentioned relievers, you could have signed Melancon and Chapman, and they are projected to be about 4 WAR… the same as Votto… for more money per season.

      • Think I get it just fine Patrick…. and proof of my opinion is based on this simple fact,Reds have finished 5th in a 5 team division in 2015 and 2016,years that Joey Votto had fine seasons. A big money team could build a quality team around Votto but Cincy just isn’t in that position….at least not as of today.Maybe Dick Williams can pull this trick off but I got my doubts….has nothing to do with WAR and everything to do with building team in a financial system that already tilted against you.No matter how well he plays he’s just one guy….and his stellar OBP didn’t help a historically bad bullpen in 2016….

        • So, where are these magical players that produce tons of value for super cheap that you can build a winning team around in a small market?

          I’m still waiting on examples. Which, no one seems to want to give.

          I know why. They don’t exist.

        • Psst. Your theory doesn’t prove what you think it proves, Bob.

        • Bob, you’re not answering the question. If the Reds got rid of Votto, right now, and freed up that 22 million, what would they be able to do with that money to make the team better (minus Votto’s contribution, of course). Spend 8 mill apiece on 3 new players? That would get you 3 journeymen free agents, whose combined production would not even be in the same stratosphere as what Votto will provide. That’s the point you’re not getting. Losing Votto’s salary does absolutely nothing to make the Reds better.

          Now, trading him for multiple elite-level prospects who will provide lots of value over the next few years is a completely separate issue. But no team is going to give us that.

        • Hi Mike….I actually did answer but I’ll give it another go.JV’s contract keeps you from doing what St Louis just did by signing Dexter Fowler…you sign players to fix holes in your 25 man roster,the weakness’s on your team. Now I get losing JV would hurt offense believe me I understand that…and my point in another post was by WAR stat you lose 4 game per season if you replace JV with an average player.4 games ( and many more in my opinion) could have made up 2016 by investing in Reds bullpen,I used Ryan Madson as an example….Reds were 26th out of 30 MLB teams in 2016 in Blown Saves.If you could find that Ryan Madson type player and sign him for one season then you’d still have enough funds for a set up guy….think Arthur Rhodes and Coco Cordero from Reds 2010.Neither of those guys will be going to HOF but they were functional parts of a very good team.Now fly in the ointment here is….what if Dick Williams can build a great team around Votto in the future by working round JV’s contract.Then you got something….but in a system that sells talent by the pound,it won’t be easy…

        • and keep in mind..I didn’t say trade for Madson,didn’t say give JV away .Obviously JV has a lot of value and you absolutely have to get that in any trade. The idea is to get back to being financially flexible…

    • You’re being sloppy when you casually say “JV is worth the money or not” as if we don’t know the answer to that. Joey Votto was and is worth the money. He was worth $100 million in production the past 2 seasons at the cost of $34 million.

      If it’s so easy to make the team better with Votto’s money, please give specific examples of who the Reds could sign *this offseason* for $22 million that would return Votto’s value to the team. It really is that simple.

      • For starters, they’d need a new 1B. On the lower end of that spectrum is a guy like Mitch Moreland and he signed for $5.5-million. That leaves a lot of money left over to improve other areas but Moreland for 1/4 of Votto’s money, isn’t likely to produce 1/4 of Votto’s production. So, you move on to a better free-agent 1B. Let’s take Encarnacion. Reds fans loved him after all (/sarcasm). He’s likely to get a deal in the $20-million/year range. Now we’re talking Votto-like money though. Is that contract now the albatross? If so, it’s likely to be for less production that Votto. What amount Ian Desmond? He’s in the middle of those two with his salary but your at 2/3 of Votto’s salary but not 2/3 of his production…. I’m not just adding WAR numbers here either. In fact, I haven’t looked at those numbers for these players. I am going on old-school ideas of talent evaluation and the values don’t add up. It would be very hard to replace Votto’s production for Votto money in the current free-agent class and in fact, I’d suggest that it can’t be done. It doesn’t matter how you measure the production.

        • If Reds hadn’t jumped the gun signing Votto…they could have let him walk and put Frazier on first…just a thought πŸ™‚

        • Um, you know Joey Votto is objectively much better than Frazier, right? And only 2 years older.

        • I know Jason…a little tongue-in-cheek there .But Todd would have been substantially cheaper… good performance at a cost Red’s could have lived with.Yonder Alonso is next on my list πŸ™‚

          • But then you wouldn’t have had Latos and Latos, no matter how rough things ended for him, was a big reason for the Reds winning the division in 2012. He also turned into a current rotation piece in Disco. You’re really getting cheeky now πŸ˜‰

      • Not slopping in fact we don’t know yet how JV’s contract will work out…remember JR. Griffeys’ hamstring? JV has roughly 1,050 games left in his contract with Cincy…we gonna assume that goes without a hitch?

        • Certainly a good chance that Votto gets injured and misses some of those games. Especially as he gets older. The odds of him missing as many as Griffey did are lower since he plays a far less demanding defensive position but it certainly is possible. It’s the scary part of any long term deal.

          Ok, so Votto would have walked and the Reds would now have Frazier at 1B. Ok, Frazier is estimated to make $13.5-million in arbitration this year but has no further commitments. You’ve got a good piece at 1B but there is still a difference in production between Frazier and Votto, especially when it comes to getting on base, which is something the Reds desperately need. You also will be missing Peraza and Schebler’s production from the mix. You do have $8.5-million in salary left though to try to make up for that. I still don’t think you can replace that production on today’s market. Going forward you wouldn’t have Frazier’s salary on the books either but then what do you do? You have Votto’s $157-million that you can spend on free-agents between 2018 and 2023. Is that enough money to replace Votto’s missing production, along with Peraza’s and Schebler’s over those years? I don’t think it is.

          We also have to keep in mind that the Reds were hoping to be competitive during the prime years of Votto’s contract. It only worked out that they were for the first couple of them. The window was a lot shorter than the Reds hoped.

        • That’s about all I have on the matter. I’m not saying that the money left owed to Votto is chump change. It’s a significant amount of money. My opinion though is that it isn’t so much money that it ends up crippling the franchise’s ability to be competitive. As that contract becomes upside-down, Votto’s salary should represent a smaller and smaller percentage of the Reds’ overall payroll. I’d be very surprised if the Reds payroll isn’t over $150-million in 2021-2022, especially if the ownership group thinks the Reds have a chance to be competitive.

        • You guys are alright …all this BB talk and no name calling. Almost like we’re all adults here πŸ™‚

        • It’s a good place for baseball discussion without trolling, flaming, and talking down to people. It’s what makes Redleg Nation great.

        • Bob: Anybody can get injured, including whoever the Reds got to repkace Votto.

    • The thing is that Votto only uses up too much of the payroll if he doesn’t produce. It’s vanishingly unlikely that his production could be acquired by the Reds for what they are paying him. The point is to maximize the value that you get in return for your money, and the Reds are clearly doing that with Votto.

  12. Steve,

    The Reds cannot afford to build a team through the free agent market. Not now. Not in 2022-23, barring a shift in the MLB economic model. I would hope we can agree on that.

    Because of that, the team already has to be creative in terms of finding players who can outperform their contracts, throughout the roster, to be a competitive club. Tying up 25% of the club’s payroll for 2017 in Votto, plus Bailey/Mes/Phillips, negates the opportunity to build that outperforming roster in any number of creative ways.

    Look at Oakland. Spent $6 million, took a flyer last winter on Rich Hill. Packaged him and Reddick for a package of well-regarded prospects. One, SP Jharel Cotton, will likely be in the rotation in ’17.

    The Reds can’t even afford to do that. It’s wait for Phillips contract to expire, then Mes, and maybe enough kids will develop to be .500 or better in 2019. Maybe.

    Let’s agree to hope that the 2019-20-21 Reds have enough power. I don’t see how they can afford to buy any. Hopefully, Dick Williams will know who can be traded away to get it.

    I am not a Votto hater by any means.

    However why you base the entirety of the Reds situation on Votto outperforming free agent market WAR value, when the team’s financial market situation and competitive landscape is much more complex (and sobering), is beyond me.

    • Wait, so this is about the Reds not being able to take $6 million fliers on starting pitchers to package and trade for prospects?

      First of all, who says the Reds can’t spend $6 million on a starting pitcher to trade at the deadline ($3 million obligation)? And second, that’s the kind of move that is going to revamp the Reds instead of paying Joey Votto? Striking lighting with Rich Hill (and adding in Reddick) is your game plan?

      The Reds have had ample opportunity to do that. They’ve traded Frazier, Bruce, Cueto, Byrd, Latos, Simon, Chapman and Leake. They’ve returned prospects, even “well regarded” ones. You’re saying taking Joey Votto’s money and risking it on a broken down starting pitcher to hopefully flip at the deadline is the franchise-saving idea being prevented by Joey Votto’s contract? Seriously?

      I hope the critics of the Votto contract have better ideas than that in mind. Please share them.

      And I don’t agree that the Reds won’t have money to spend on free agents going forward, particularly in the out-years of Votto’s contract. If the current crop of players doesn’t produce the talent they need, the resources will be there, as they were in 2012-2014 to get them. The Reds aren’t the Yankees, Dodgers or Red Sox, but they aren’t poverty stricken either.

    • “Let’s base the entirety of the Reds situation on Votto outperforming the free agent market,” said no one, ever.

    • Bingo….

  13. Steve,

    It is pointless to argue with someone who is in denial about the Reds financial situation.

    I have posted comments here this week, quoting the Castellini’s and from Jayson Stark, spotlighting the fiscal restraints the Reds have.

    Re-building teams either go “Full Luhnow” (Astros GM) a la HOU, CHI or take on fliers to hopefully flip speed up the pool of cheap, outperforming talent. Such as the Phillies taking on P Clay Buchholz.

    The Reds, unfortunately, can’t do either of those paths. But, somehow, the assets can’t be allocated better than having 25% of payroll tied up in a declining asset, on a team projected to win 69 games in 2017. SMH.

    Any entrepreneur/business owner/GM worth his or her salt would crave getting Votto off the books, taking the WAR hit to 65 wins and having the extra $ to creatively get this team truly on a competitive track.

    You don’t see it that way. No problem. Agree to disagree.

    • The winning window ran out for the Reds and the franchise could not pay market-based contracts to Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman,Todd Frazier,Mike Leake, and Jay Bruce. The Reds extended contracts to 3 core players to outlast that window and serve as transition to the next winning window-Joey Votto, Devon Mesoraco and Homer Bailey. 2 of those 3 players had franchise crippling injuries. There is no creative solution to franchise crippling injuries. Period.

      • This should be a post on its own.

        • You are both correct. Joey Votto is worth every penny and getting rid of his contract doesn’t help the Reds win in 2017 or ’18 or ’19………but even he can’t rebuild this deeply flawed team and the FO doesn’t have enough major league ready young players or the $9 million per WAR in free agency to make up for departed players and injuries to Bailey and Mesoraco. This is not a reboot. Its a rebuild. I now believe it’s 2019 and not 2018.

    • Never said I wouldn’t trade Votto. Please don’t mischaracterize my views to make it easier to attack. Of course I would depending on the return. He might be declining (every major league player over 26-27 is declining) but he has a long way to go. I’ve written thousands of words analyzing the Reds financial situation (links below to a few) and base my opinion on a lot of research. As I’ve said, attendance is a small piece of it. The Reds have lots of money budgeted for signing high draft picks that doesn’t show up in Stark’s article. Castellini is holding back because they are rebuilding. Attendance and spending will return when the Reds get promising, I expect as soon as next year.

      I’m sure the Reds do have a budget constraint. Maybe it’s $90 million, maybe $95 million. They could buy more if Castellini said they could spend $110 million, which they could if he would let them. But again, if you can’t come up with something specific to do with the $22 million in the Votto contract this year – I mean other than the laughable example of $6 million for Rich Hill, trade him and Josh Reddick for “well regarded” prospects – that’s the point.

      It’s plenty easy to argue with me. I’ve explained my assumptions about payroll, national tv revenues, other MLB revenues, revenue sharing changes, mobile platforms, cord cutting, local streaming, local tv ratings, radio ratings, tv footprints and more. If you disagree, just come back with data of your own. It’s easy! An article from one writer about this year and a “woe is me” statement of the obvious by the owner isn’t refutation.

      I’ll try one more time: Please explain *specifically* how the Joey Votto money could be spent right now “to get this team truly on a competitive track” – and I hope it’s a different answer than trading for more prospects, like we did with Cueto, Bruce, Frazier etc. The Reds have cleared at least $80 million in payroll with their trades the past few years. Hard to believe a fraction of that money paid to a 5-6 WAR player is the key to what’s holding them back.


  14. Do we give Bob C. credit for locking Votto up or are we just critical of him for the BP signing? Just wondering what everyone thought about that.

    • I’m good with the BP signing too. Honestly, my only issue at the time was I thought it was a year too long. Turns out it was 2 years too long but I certainly don’t feel it has hurt the franchise.

      • Yeah, Phillips earned his money. His is a classic example of the backloaded deal. Sure, he’s not a good deal now, but if you’d made the deal 2 years shorter, the annual value would have been significantly higher, which is exactly what long extensions aim to avoid.

        • Exactly. I have no issues with the BP deal, nor the Votto deal. I don’t really have a problem with Mes’ deal either, aside from it didn’t buy out any free-agent years so I thought perhaps they were better off just going to arbitration. I didn’t like Bailey’s deal but didn’t think the Reds overpaid either. I just don’t like that long of a contract to pitchers. In today’s market, I’d have a hard time signing one if I was a GM. If Bailey was healthy and pitching like he did the 3 years leading up to the deal, I don’t think people would be complaining.

    • Neither contract was bad, IMO. Also, I don’t think the Bailey contract was bad at the time. Injuries happen in sports.

  15. Steve,

    Your arrogance and hubris is astounding.

    We, as readers, are supposed to dismiss the words of the owner, and that of a national ESPN writer, quoting baseball executives, on the Reds fiscal constraints….and instead, believe you?

    And, I don’t know why you mock the A’s return on Hill/Reddick. They got the 5th, 8th and 11th prospects of the Dodgers, a franchise well known for identifying prospects and developing talent.


    It is clear to me that you don’t know what other teams in MLB are doing, and furthermore, don’t really care. I value the competitive landscape very much. Browbeating me for doing so is your issue. Doesn’t make me wrong. Or, unwise.

    No one is right 100% of the time. Not me, not you, certainly not the Reds front office. Why everything is a caustic “I am right” from you, only you know. I value your views, but not your disdain or condescension.

    • More personal insults and attacks will get your comments banned, per site guidelines. No need for name calling. Just defend your opinion – there’s plenty of ground – and let the chips fall where they may. I’m wrong all the time. That happens when you write 100 posts a year for a website where you have to analyze and predict things with incomplete information. Your personal insults and attacks are a sign you’ve run out of constructive information to provide. You certainly haven’t come up with any realistic ways to spend the Votto money to improve the team in a way the $80 million-plus salary clearance already hasn’t. Shouldn’t that be easy if it’s so obviously the right thing to do?

      The reason the Hill/Reddick trade isn’t a blueprint for what to do with the Votto money is (1) Hill was a long-shot, teams could try that a dozen times and not get so lucky with a reclamation project. You could spend Votto’s $22 million on 3-4 of those pitchers and not hit a Hill. Then where would you be? (2) Who is the Reds’ equivalent of Reddick to add to the trade?

      I also challenged you to prove the Reds – despite the constraints – couldn’t afford a $6 million SP with the intent to flip at the deadline. Crickets. Dick Williams has said they have money to do a few new things.

      I said you should believe the 2017 fiscal constraints. That’s not a reason to believe Votto’s money is a problem if you can’t suggest something better to do with it. I said the fiscal constraints will lift in time when the team gets better and attendance rebounds. You’re really taking that one Stark article as gospel. Remember, it only talks about this year, it doesn’t account for draft/international signings or the rebuild timetable.

      The Reds are not going to make any acquisitions from the free agent market this year that will help the rebuild or improve the team long-term. That’s what those guys (Castellini and Stark) are talking about. Dumping Votto’s salary isn’t the solution because the new player would provide less value than Votto.

    • SLIOTAR…To be honest, ESPN writers are pretty terrible at analysis. (This coming from someone who is an analyst and manages rocket scientists for a living). I don’t think I’ve learned a single thing, literally ever, from an article posted on ESPN.com. Not to say they aren’t good writers and don’t come up with fun stories, but they are not analysts. They are old-school, high-volume journalists paid to drive traffic to the site. Taking what they say as any sort of gospel is folly. They don’t know what they are talking about in regard to financial analysis.

      Also, when a group of people with combined net worth in the billions say they are financially crippled, I don’t believe them. They are doing the PR thing and managing fan’s expectations about future spending. The Reds CAN afford whatever they want. Whether Big Bob wants to spend his own money is a different story, but he has already shows he WILL spend, as he did a few years back when the Reds had a higher payroll.

      So, rather than just believing people (I tend not to believe people unless they have data to back themselves up, in all walks of life, not just baseball), please look past what they say and see if it even makes sense.

      • Rob Neyer used to write for them and Dan Szymborski still does. Just have to do some digging to find the good analysis but it is there. I am quite fond of Olney and his analysis as well. I read Stark’s and Sickles’ stuff because I like their writing.

        • I don’t consider those guys “ESPN” guys since they started elsewhere. Neye was with BP, right? And, well, Dan developed his own projection system.

          I more meant guys like Stark, Olney, and Kirkjian. I like all those guys, but analysts they are not.

          • My first exposure to Rob Neyer was with ESPN before they even had “Insiders”. He and Bill James were my first exposure to SABR and sabermetrics. Rob did some stuff for BP around the same time I believe. This was several years ago, perhaps 12-14 years back.

        • And I guess everyone probably started “elsewhere,” so my line of reasoning here isn’t very sound… but I think you know what I’m getting at!

  16. I truly thought his article was a joke. Honestly !!!!!!

  17. Steve,

    If you took anything I said as a personal attack, you are even more thin-skinned than I imagine. You have gone to great lengths to mock me today, and criticize my views. I am not wounded by it in the least.

    We agree the Reds cannot rebuild via the free agent market. Simply put, you would not reinvest the “value” back of a traded Votto into the team immediately. It’s a 69 win with him, 65 without him. You might get back a 1 WAR guy, a Top 50 and Top 100 prospect (just spitballing on values).

    You take that realized value and give yourself additional avenues to try (I have explained a few already) to give yourself a margin of error. Even if that means taking longer to have a completed re-build.

    IMO, the Reds have to have a lot go right to get to 90 wins by 2019. With little margin for mistakes and little-to-no financial slack.

    Again, we agree to disagree. No worries.

    • “Your arrogance and hubris is astounding.”

      “Everything is caustic from you”


      “It is pointless to argue with someone who is in denial”

      “you are even more thin-skinned than I imagine”

      “It is clear to me that you don’t know what other teams in MLB are doing”

      Arrogant, caustic, condescending, thin-skinned, in denial, doesn’t know things. Those are personal attacks as I understand the concept. I may have criticized a couple of your arguments, but not you. There’s a difference. Tone is hard thing to gauge online. I’ve got no interest in wounding you, don’t take stridency that way. πŸ™‚

    • So, take Votto’s money and put it on a bunch of lotto tickets? That seems to be your plan.

      Take fliers on a bunch of prospects and old, bad pitchers rather than giving money to one of the best hitters who has ever graced the planet?

      Is that an accurate summation?

      Also, a 1 WAR player along with a random Top 50 and Top 100 is worth SOOOO much less, historically, than what Votto projects to do.

      You’d make the team significantly worse doing what you are suggesting, unless you got lucky. Hoping for luck is a poor way to manage a team, I think.


      Everyone who writes for 538 is, for the most part, capable of rigorous analysis.

  18. So a year ago Red’s Front Office says….we need to make some changes here and trade Joey Votto for say Joe Blow from Kokomo first baseman,just some guy with a zero WAR (never liked that stat) just to get out from underneath JV’s contract.And Reds realize they don’t have a worthwhile Closer and decide to throw that $22,000,000 at Ryan Madson a 3 year contract (what he signed with A’s for) . Ryan Madson in 2016 converted 77% of his Save Opportunities into Saves and in 2016 Reds were close to MLB leaders in Blown Saves at 25…..77% of 25 = 19 more wins.Reds lose 4 wins because of loss of Votto but gain 19 wins because of Madson.Reds end season with 84 wins….this make sense to anyone besides me?

    • Which specific games would Madson have pitched last year? What is his history vs the random assortment of hitters he theoretically would’ve faced relative to who he did face? Since there is no such thing as a parallel universe, does Madson get injured, catch scurvy, get into fight with Price had the Reds made that move?

      Many of the Reds blown leads occurred in the 8th so would Madson have been a 2 inning pitcher all year? How long would that have lasted? Chapman is a physical freak and he was done after a week. If you use Madson in high leverage situations then Jumbo or JJ pitch the 9th….so many of those leads are still blown.

      Without Votto, do the Reds actually score any runs? How often does Madson get to pitch if they’re losing…..because they can’t score? Does Hamilton develop as well as he did under the tutelage of Ryan Madson as he did under Votto? Without Votto, who fills that vacuum in the locker room? BP? How does that impact a young team?

      Didn’t the 2015 Reds lose 98 games with Chapman closing?

      • Ya know what?? I think Votto is worth more than 4 games a season,like I said I’m not much on WAR stat.But if you’re gonna guess and throw out what if’s then maybe Madson wins more than 77% because pitching in AL includes the DH. It’s just a hypothetical situation….where trading Votto and using that money to fix a glaring weakness Reds had in 2016….think of it as mental calisthenics…

    • There are problems with your logic.

      First, the Reds blew 25 saves, but also converted 28. I’m too lazy to go game-by-game right now, but I’m certain that some blown saves became victories in which a pitcher converted the save. That can happen.

      So let’s say, in total, there were 48 games in which the Reds had a chance to win if a save was secured, but lets also assume the bullpen blows 8 of those before Madson ever sees them. Madson converts 77% (which is a terrible number for closer, btw). That results in 30 converted saves. Five more wins total. Maybe.

      • I agree 77% is terrible….but he was available and that $22 Mill gets you 3 years of Madsen. Point I’m trying to make….Reds do have other options besides investing in JV,he’s not the only game in town.And if you are a believer in WAR (me not so much) but if you are,making up 4 games per season ain’t that difficult,especially with a team as weak as 2016 Reds were. 4 games per season certainly isn’t worth 25% of your payroll…

      • Reds actually had 53 Save Opportunities and 25 Blown Saves in 2016…a SV% of 53. Reds were 28th of 30 teams in MLB in SV%….

        • But if they had traded Votto’s salary to sign a closer, there would almost certainly have been fewer save opportunities.

  19. the god emperor of Cincinnati. If not for Joey Votto the crickets would make more noise at GABP than the fans yelling at how bad our organization is.

    • All in hindsight….if I had posted that a year ago I’d be breakin’ my arm right now patting myself on the back πŸ™‚ .But the brewhaha today has been can Reds spend spend their $$ in a more efficient manner than investing in JV so there’s that…

  20. What % of payroll did the Reds spend on their rotation in 2010-13? What % now? What % does a typical team spend on its rotation? I believe these answers that might well say more about why the team is where it is now than arguing over Joey Votto’s contract versus the worth of his production.

    No attempt was made to replace Arroyo, Leake, or Cueto at the salaries they made when they left, relatively modest though they were at the prevailing rate at the end of those contracts. What happened to the money which went off the books when Latos was traded? When Sean Marshall’s contract went way? Just making a quick and dirty run through BBRef, I come up with a total of around $50M annually represented in these pitching salaries which went off the books between the end of 2013 thru the end of 2015. That covers (and maybe a little more than) the drop in payroll over the period.

    So, who was going competently compliment Bailey in the rotation even had he stayed healthy?

    • I’m left believing there was always only one plan, to go out in a blaze of glory in 2015 and hope warm afterglow assuaged the pain of the 2 to 3 years it figured to take to rebuild.

      • There was a point they realized that all five starting pitchers (Cueto, Leake, Latos, Bailey and Alfredo Simon) were going to be free agents after the same season (2015), and someone took a big gulp and then said, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit amphetamines.”

        • Yep.
          Personally I think they made a major error in not extending Mike Leake in the off season between 2014 and 2015 when he was sending signals he was amenable to a deal.
          The annual money the Reds paid Arroyo in 2o13 is roughly the AAV of the guaranteed money in Mike Leake’s deal with the Cardinals. The Reds could have probably gotten him for a lower AAV before the 2015 season; but they were too proud to admit that Cueto was a goner and snubbed Leake under pretense they hoped to sign Cueto.

          Bailey and Leake would have made a nice foundation to a rotation (a high ceiling top end guy and solid innings eater middle guy) thru the end of the decade at an combined AAV of $30-35M. Of course Bailey subsequently being injured and out would have still caused upheaval in 2015-16; but they’d be (hopefully) looking at a rotation featuring Bailey, Leake, and Disco in 2017 forward.

        • OHIOHIMW

          I have always been a Mike Leake fan and totally agree. I wanted them to sign Leake and Cueto and let the rest go. I’ll own that Homer’s injury wasn’t predictable (could just as easily have been Cueto), but chalk that up as one of those times I was right. We all have our moments, I suppose.

        • That 2012 starting rotation was about best I think I’ve ever seen in Red’s uniform….all solid and all going 200 innings (or close) that year. Sure would be a luxury if Homer,DeSclafani,Finnegan,Straily and the Unknown 5th Starter could develop along same lines in coming years…

    • These are my thoughts too… They said at the meet & greet that the money was going in a ‘war chest’ so they can fill any holes on the next competitive team. This is the same thing WJ and Williams said about the rebuild prior to last season. In other words, the money is being pocketed for now. The team has shown a willingness to spend at or beyond their break-even threshold under certain circumstances. I’m hoping that they aren’t blowing smoke and that remains the case.

      • And perhaps this is a backhanded way of saying they already robbed Peter (the future) to pay Paul (the present) in order to finance the rotation they had during the successful seasons from 2010-13?

      • Having that cash to buy FA and fill holes is where Cardinals are now signing Dexter Fowler…financial flexibility.And in meanwhile Reds shop for Blue Light Specials because a few years ago Walt Jocketty’s couldn’t see beyond his nose…

  21. 19th century???

  22. This thread is mentally exhausting.

    • That’s not hard to accomplish with my brain these days.

    • Oh c’mon Patrick…not that bad,you guys have a good group here.A little difference of opinion and the resulting turmoil makes it all interesting πŸ™‚

  23. I love Votto. I don’t understand all of the nuances of WAR and contract economics, but put me in the camp of “It’s worth it to have Votto play here and retire” For me, I feel a connection to my Reds through following the players and the drama of their ups and downs. Guys like Larkin and Bench, who played their entire careers here are icons I still feel proud of. And the missed potential of guys like Davis, Griffey Jr, Bruce, or Bailey are tragedies to me.

    Viva la Votto!

    • Every major league contract that is signed is a risk because it’s fully guaranteed. The player could leave the contract signing and fall down a set of stairs, permanently injuring his pitching arm. In the case of Votto, the Reds took a chance based on the market as it was at the time. They thought they had a Hall-of-Fame caliber player who still had many years of his prime left. Turns out, in terms of contract value, they did well because now you have Giancarlo Stanton at $325 million and who knows what Bryce Harper will get? But we’re not going to see any more contracts like this from the Reds for a very long time, with the returns on the Griffey contract and what will certainly be a gradual decline from Votto as he ages.

      • Stanton hasn’t exactly been healthy either. Of course the awful HBP he took was certainly an odd, freaky, and terrifying occurrence.

        • A good reference point on how risky the really big contracts are.

        • Having a little depth in your Org can help those times when one of your front line troops goes down….but when you have to sub catcher Bryan Pena for Votto at first base for a third of your season,all you can do is shake your head.Hopefully DW will see the value of depth…

        • Is anyone anti-depth? Do you think there are GM’s who prefer to have bad backups vs good back ups?

        • Wilson Valdez, Miguel Cairo,Jack Hannahan ,Cesar Iztruris,Skip Schumaker. etc.,
          The 2016 bullpen neglect.
          WJ has a long history of constructing 22 man rosters.

        • Chuck…read Old School’s comment.IMHO Walt has just never had much interest in building a good Farm System…he seemed to place most of his resources in Reds 25 man roster and everything else was an annoying detail.Good Farm System=good depth see having a Jose Peraza to replace Zack Cozart in 2016 when Zack went on DL in August.Just different philosophy’s between GM’s…always thought Walt was a gambler hoping to get thru the season without a lot of players going down because of injuries…

  24. Off-topic… What a great sign by the dang Pirates. Nova for 3yrs/$26-million. That’s the kind of contract I can deal with for a pitcher. If Nova can be a #3 kind of starter for them it’s a steal and staying healthy for them and in the rotation at all means it’s probably a win.

    • Ivan’s 2016 stats between Yanks and Pirates weren’t too shaggy… 162 IP ERA of 4.17 FIP of 4.11 WHIP of 1.253 ….not stellar but solid,a starter that should be able to get you deep into a game.And reasonable money and term… looks like Pirates found a good fit for their starting rotation.Can’t see that it’s off topic,Pittsburgh one of those teams Reds have to climb over in 2017 to show improvement…

  25. Encarnacion for $20 million is a steal. 2nd most home runs in baseball last five years.

    • Reds sure had a lot of good ball players pass thru their system 2005-2010 .Louisville Bats 2008 roster included Edwin Encarnacion,Drew Stubbs,David Ross,Homer Bailey,Jay Bruce,Ryan Hanigan.2007 Bat’s Roster Votto,Cueto,Josh Hamilton….kinda makes ya wonder how we got where we are today…

      • Edwin took a long time to figure it out. People forget that Toronto actually cut him at one point, so it wasn’t just the Reds. Stubbs was actually not that good. Hamilton and Homer both got hurt. Bruce got old (in the field) fast. Hanigan hasn’t been good for a couple of years. David Ross just retired.

        I mean, basically, you listed a bunch of players who, via playing or bringing good returns via trade would have made for a really good team 4-6 years ago, which, you know, exactly describes the Reds.

      • Hey Jason….what I remember about EE was he made a terrible 3rd baseman πŸ™‚ .And I understand why a lot of these guys moved on….maybe they didn’t live up to their potential (like a 5 tool Drew Stubbs,he was a real disappointment to me) …or they just hit FA market and got too expensive.Guess my point was in that time period Wayne Krivsky and Reds did a decent job at bringing talent into Red’s Org….

    • I realize this post has gone really far off topic, but did you read the part where I pointed out that no first baseman outside of Stan Musial has been good after age-36? Edwin is about to enter his age-34 season. That is, he’s older than Votto.

    • You gotta think, though, why didn’t a larger market for him materialize? Aging, bat-only players are very high risk.

      He’s almost certain to be a steal at $20M this year, but he could potentially be a replacement level player if he loses any of his bat speed at all next year or the year after.

      • I think you’re answering your own question, Patrick. Most teams don’t seem to have any enthusiasm on Encarnacion’s prospects over the next few years precisely because of his age and lack of positional value. His former teammate, Bautista, perhaps gives you the best indication of where things are headed.

  26. … Who plays 1st Base if the Reds trade Joey? Remember that they traded Jay Bruce last year, so he’s not an option. Seriously though – WHO? I suppose Mr. Glass (Mez) is an option.

    Why anyone would trust this management to spend the $22 million they’d “save” by getting rid of Votto? This is an organization that signed an all-glove no stick SS for $7 million dollars – a colossal risk and perhaps a horrible waste of resources – when you include the lost opportunity cost of no INTL signings this year.

    I would much rather have Joey Votto playing for the Reds and EARNING every penny of his contract than trading Joey and spending $22 million on players who aren’t nearly as good as Votto.

    • Personally I wouldn’t spend the $22 million if votto is traded. Makes more sense to win 60 games with a $68 million salary than winning 68 paying $90million.

      • Ah, so we’re back to not spending money again. I’m reluctant to go back to the 2000’s, thank you.

    • Bring back Todd Frazier similar WAR (for those that put stock in that stat) …..put him at first base.Twice the fielder and twice the base runner at half the $$$…yeah,you’ll lose some offensive but gain a pile of cash in to invest in pitching.And as we all know….pitching wins BB games…

      • You don’t put stock in WAR, so why do you bring it up? And don’t you think the Reds have enough pitching arms?

        • Be the first to admit I straddle the fence when it comes to WAR stat,just not real confident in how accurate it is.And when you compare Votto and Frazier’s on the field value side by side and then see their WAR is almost identical….I think that says a lot right there.But to the pitching I complain a lot about Walt Jocketty but he does do one thing I think is clever…he likes to stockpile young pitching.I think that does 2 things for you… 1. is you get to pick and keep the pitchers who show real promise and 2. pitching has more value than position players,pitchers make better trade chips.Always a good demand for pitching….not so much for second basemen…

        • Reds have been able to slash their payroll by letting their Free Agents walk and use their young pitching….they’ve been able to re-tool starting rotation with 2 and maybe 3 young pitchers for coming season.I think there’s a real possibility they’ll be able field a good bullpen in 2017 using their young pitchers.And they still have more filtering up thru AA and AAA…I watched Rookie Davis pitch twice in 2016 and even though his record doesn’t show it I think he has real potential.And (IMHO) Wild card here is Reds have Bryan Price,Mack Jenkins and Ted Power to help develop these guys at MLB level….that’s a lot of years of pitching experience.So what have Reds gotten in return?? Not much yet but that story is still being written…

      • General statement on WAR: It’s not perfect. Fielding numbers, especially are a bit squishy. In terms of offense, it is VERY accurate. Don’t get me started on pitcher WAR. Still lots to do there.

        Here’s the problem with that: elite fielders don’t provide much value at first. It’s too “easy” to play. In WAR calculations, players at first are docked 12.5 fielding runs (1.25 WAR) just for playing a full season at first. To put this in context, if you go to FanGraphs and look at Votto’s Def numbers, this tells you that he was about 3 runs better than the average first baseman in ’15 and about 6 runs worse than average in ’16.

        Votto as more than 40 runs better than Frazier with the bat last year. The most talented fielders in baseball didn’t manage to be 30 runs above average last year. In short, there is no way Frazier can make up that gap.

        Another way to look at value, if you want to see it through the context of more traditional stats is this: Votto scored 101 runs last year. This despite the fact that he was typically batting 3rd and thus often on base with 2 outs AND despite the fact that, aside from a few isolated hot streaks, the Reds weren’t exactly running murders row out there.

        Now, contrast this with an old example: Joe Carter. Carter was a famous “RBI” man (he had some power and lots of guys on in front of him). Carter, in general, had hitters of a much higher caliber behind him than Votto has, and yet he didn’t score nearly as many runs as Votto. Why? He didn’t get on base. At all.

        The issues with “seeing” Votto’s value is that he’s the best 1st and 2nd and 3rd and 4th hitter the Reds have. Remember how great it was when he was hitting behind Choo? He hasn’t had enough of that in his career, and that’s not his fault.

        • Jason I get the math and understand why this comparison is so off kilter….point is WAR isn’t the stat some folks make it up to be,baseball stats are too simple of a system to describe a very complicated process.I think it’s a good effort…I like to think of it as baseballs version of physics pursuit of the Unified Theory πŸ™‚ .And that applies to old school stats too…heard this once years ago,once the ball leaves a pitchers hand there are an infinite number of things that can happen.Side note… I saw (on TV) Joe Carter hit his walk off HR to win 1993 World Series,what a thrill that was.One of those BB moments you never forget….

        • Fair enough, but I’ll make one more comment and then sign off.

          You seem to be more “old school” in your evaluation of players. However, look around baseball. The most successful teams aren’t old school at all. Not a bit. They make extremely heavy use of sabermetrics. The proof is in the pudding, as they say.

        • I kinda have a foot in both camps….I do read thru Fangraphs once in awhile.And like FIP and RF,BABIP,OPS,WHIP on top of my traditional stats, I think a lot of the ratio stats are good…almost any stat that is anchored in what happens on the field is good with me. But UZR and WAR…not so much….

  27. Bob, I understand your position and the logic behind it. I feel that when you have contract control of an all-time talent for the next several years, you can’t just give it away for anything less than similar value. You might as well close down the franchise, because if this is how the team must respond when they have a player of this magnitude, there really is no point in continuing.

    At some point, winning has to be the objective, not how many 22-year-olds with incredible spin rates on their curveballs you can acquire. As much as we’d all like to believe that each player who is called a top prospect is going to develop into an all-star, the history shows that is not the case. We’re all watching this rebuild exercise with interest because other teams have shown it can be accomplished this way.

    I agree with you that the long-term, nine-figure contract is no longer an option for the Reds under current economic and competitive conditions.

    Trading Votto for the objective of acquiring someone like Madson would result in the Reds having many, many fewer leads to try to protect. No doubt they need a closer they can count on, but trading Votto for anything less than an established all-star-level performer is not the way to go.

    Way to spark an intense discussion! πŸ™‚

    • Tom…your last statement,see…you figured me out πŸ™‚ .I do enjoy reading other peoples opinions and I’m not above changing my mind if guy on other side of table makes a good point. And I’m also the kind of guy who just enjoys poking a stick into the hornets nest…just my nature πŸ™‚

    • Very well articulated. Nice contribution.

  28. I would be interested in seeing a graph of this, comparing something like first seasons to first seasons, 2nd seasons to 2nd seasons., etc. Or, as in, Votto has been in the majors now for 9 full seasons, with a total war of 46.8 during those 9 seasons (-0.1 WAR in 24 games in 2007). What kind of WAR do all the others have in their first 9 seasons?

    For instance, in Killebrew’s first 9 full seasons in the league, he had an accumulative WAR of 43.6, I believe. And, Votto has an accumulative WAR of 46.8.

    Why would i prefer this comparison? Because, these days, with the age of the minor leagues, it takes a lot longer for players to get to the majors. For instance, Jimmie Foxx started playing in the majors at 17 years old, his first full season at 20. Votto didn’t play a full season until he was 24 years old.

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About Jason Linden

Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing atΒ Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel,Β When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.


Hall of Fame, Joey Votto is Perfect