Buster Olney has reported that the Cincinnati Reds are willing to listen to trade offers for first baseman Joey Votto. Olney doesn’t get the feeling that the Reds will be actively shopping Votto, whose contract is up following the 2013 season, but with the slugger’s upcoming payday, the team will entertain trade proposals from other clubs.
Votto completed another successful campaign in 2011, finishing the year with a line of .309/.416/.531. Setting a career high with 40 doubles, Votto made it back over the 100 RBI plateau while hitting 29 home runs. The 28-year-old also walked a National League leading 110 times while scoring 101 runs.
While others put up better offensive seasons than Votto, the slugger’s all-around effort in 2011 earned him the third highest WAR (6.9) in the NL according to FanGraphs. This didn’t put him in Matt Kemp (8.7) or even Ryan Braun (7.8) range, but Votto did finish with higher marks than other MVP candidates Justin Upton (6.4) and Troy Tulowitzki (6.3).
Couple his 2011 success with last year’s MVP worthy campaign, and Votto is lining himself up for a pretty payday. Votto is set to make $9.5 million in 2012 before collecting $17 million during the final year of his deal.
If he’s able to reach the free agent market, Votto would be in line for a contract comparable to fellow first baggers Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Teixeira and Ryan Howard. Each of these players have been locked into $20 plus million per year deals, and with Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols joining the fun this offseason, these numbers appear set to continue their climb.
In the case of Gonzalez, Howard and Teixeira, each has found a home with a big market club who could shoulder the weight of such a large contract. St. Louis is probably able to take on the megadeal that Pujols will call for, while Fielder has seemingly priced himself out of Milwaukee’s range.
The latter could also be the case with Votto. Cincinnati is in a similar boat as the Brewers, with a payroll hovering around $70-$80 million over the past few seasons. Assuming Votto requires a market value deal of $20-$25 million, he would be taking up roughly 25% of the Reds payroll.
Olney believes that, if this isn’t something economically feasible for the Reds, Cincinnati needs to consider dealing their slugger. To maximize his value, Olney thinks the Reds would want to move Votto before next season’s July deadline. This would allow trade partners a year and a half of Votto’s services before he reached free agency.
Of course, the Reds could follow the Brewers approach with Fielder and look to build toward a championship run in 2012-13 while their slugger is under team control. For this, Milwaukee is willing to watch Fielder walk while only taking compensation picks in return. Of course, if the Brewers are able to cash in on a World Series berth and possible victory, this would all be considered well worth it.
So, while Votto trade rumors are set to begin flying this offseason, it will be interesting to see the path the Reds look to take with their MVP-caliber first baseman.
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