Joey Votto’s contract is exhibit A that gigantic, long-term contracts can hurt a small market franchise even when the player does everything right.
Back in 2012, the Reds signed Joey Votto to a twelve year, $251 million contract. Votto was a 28 year old former MVP and two-time all-star. The Reds had a solid core of young players under control who had already won the central division in 2010. The future looked bright. So the Reds decided to lock up Votto for life.
In the six years since, Votto has lived up to his end of the bargain, earning 33.6 WAR. He has been everything the Reds hoped he would be.
Unfortunately, after a division title in 2012, the Reds starting sliding down the standings. By 2015 they were in full rebuild mode, trading away Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake mid-season. The Reds have since assembled a respectable collection of new young talent on their roster and have five prospects on MLB.com’s top 100 prospect watch. Three should be ready for their call ups this year, including #7 overall prospect Nick Senzel. By 2019 the Reds should be ready to start contending.
Joey Votto will be 35.
Which means that during the heart of the Reds upcoming window of contention, Votto will be in decline. Yet, all the while he will earn $25 million per year, a quarter of the Reds current payroll, with a full no-trade clause and no desire to leave Cincinnati.
This is the danger of the long-term contract to the small market team. The Red did everything right back in 2012, they had a contender with a core that they thought could win multiple division titles. Votto did everything right, he outperformed a huge contract (and that is not easy to do). Yet Votto’s contract will be an anchor on the Reds, limiting payroll and new free agent acquisitions through 2023.
Bonus Feature – Daydream Cubs: 1986
1986 Draft: (#) Player’s real-life selection round, AS= All-Star; HoF = Hall of Famer; GG = Gold Glove
- Round 1: Curt Schilling (2) – SP: AS (x5), Cy-Young runner up (x3)
- Round 2: Bo Jackson (4) – RF: AS (x1)
- Round 3: Pat Hentgen (5) – SP: AS (x3), Cy-Young (x1)
- Round 4: Rod Beck (13) – RP: AS (x3)
The 1986 draft yields two quality pitchers: the late blooming Curt Schilling and the often overlooked Pat Hentgen. Curt Schilling is actually drafted in the winter draft (’86 was the last year to feature summer and winter drafts).
Although Bo Jackson never had a great baseball career, I could not resist taking him. In fairness, Jackson is actually a perfect bench outfielder given his defensive chops and pinch running ability. He also would be amazing trade bait.