It sure would be nice if Joey Votto agreed to some sort of hush-hush retirement resolution with Cincinnati Reds owner Bob Castellini. If the owner would pony-up, say, $50 million to get Votto to go away, maybe he’d take it. Tell him to do whatever he wants after the announcement. If he decides to come out of retirement and sign with another team, fine. If he wants to ride off into the Canadian sunset, fine. Anything to relieve the Reds of the $206 million he’s set to earn until 2024.
To the tune of $225 million over a 10-year span, Reds’ GM Walt Jocketty and Castellini invested in Votto just before the 2012 season. Whenever a team — especially in a small market — gives a whopper contract to a player, fans start a collective “what if?” doomsday scenario. And a lot of times it will happen — toward the end of the contract. That’s the price a team pays to retain the services of a mega-stud superstar.
Votto made the contract look like a disaster from the get-go. The 2012 season saw him miss 31.5 percent of the season. That alone was ulcer-inducing, but mixed with his bizarre trend of watching very hittable strikes land in the catcher’s mitt was enough to send the sanest Reds fan to their local nervous hospital.
The next season rolled around, and the Reds acquired table-setter Shin-Soo Choo; a cure-all fix to lead-off woes that plagued the entire Dusty Baker era. Choo did his job, reaching base at .423 clip. The curious case of Votto’s odd desire to achieve some sort of bases-on-balls record continued and resulted in a 162-game season with only 73 RBI. Votto had more RBI with inept lead-off batters. With Choo on base 42.3 percent of the time, those 73 RBI should have been all Choo — not a total.
The 2014 Votto has fizzled like a wet firecracker. Before he was shut down with a bum leg, he was hitting a back-up first baseman line of .255/.390/.409 with six home runs, 29 RBI and 49 strikeouts in 220 at-bats. He’s only 30 years old, but he’s looking like a farewell-tour version of a once great 44 year old.
Because of Votto’s contract, the Reds financially strapped. Thanks to the organization’s incredible scouting, the farm will continue to crank greatness. But that talent will head to greener free-agency pastures if Votto does not retire.