When you are a career .311 hitter, you tend to be held to higher standards than the majority of your constituents. For Joey Votto, that is definitely the case. However, over the past three and a half years, injuries have taken a toll on the Cincinnati Reds‘ $200 million man, and 2014 is no different.
Even with injuries obviously continuing to plague Votto, the Reds allow him to take the field day after day. While the lineup is constructed specifically with Votto in mind, his struggles are doing more than failing to provide runs for the Reds; they are jeopardizing the future of the Reds and Votto himself.
Leg issues are hard to overcome, especially for baseball players who are in need of healthy legs on a daily basis. Votto’s desire to play every day is admirable and shows that he will do whatever it takes to play. However, there comes a point when the Reds must wonder if having Votto in the lineup is doing more to help or hurt the team. Take a look at these numbers Votto has posted since returning from the disabled list on June 10:
Last 7 days: .250 AVG | 0 HR | 0 RBI | .333 OBP | 2 BB | 2 K
Last 14 days: .200 AVG | 0 HR | 2 RBI | .347 OBP | 9 BB | 5 K
Last 28 days: .263 AVG | 0 HR | 10 RBI | .374 OBP | 14 BB | 14 K
Obviously these are numbers that are very un-Votto-like. While the on base percentage remains reasonably high, even that is lower than his career .418 OBP. For comparison’s sake, his OBP was .435 in 2013 and .474 in limited time during the 2012 season. Even more proof of Votto struggling to play through injuries can be seen when combining his stats from the last 365 days:
.272 AVG | 16 HR | 56 RBI | .421 OBP | 122 BB | 109 K
That is exactly why the Reds should make the tough decision and shut Votto down until the start of the 2015 season. Such a decision, while difficult to make, would preserve the foundation of the Reds’ future. While it would put a wrench in the team’s 2014 campaign, it is better for the Reds to be without Votto for eight months than to be paying $200 million to a player who is a shell of his former self for the next decade.
The time for such a decision is now for two reasons: It gives Votto proper time to heal without rushing the recovery process, and it also gives Walt Jocketty time to construct a trade to fill Votto’s void. Chances are the trade would not involve acquiring a first baseman. Instead, the Reds could look for a third baseman while Frazier fills the void at first base or the Reds hasten their search for a competent left fielder, allowing Brayan Pena to split time at first base and re-calling Tucker Barnhart from AAA Louisville. Granted, the Reds would face the conundrum of what to do with Ryan Ludwick if such a move is made. The answer for that lies within a much longer article somewhere down the line.
Regardless, the Reds are facing an important crossroads with Votto. Is winning more important to the front office now or in the future?