The Cincinnati Reds have shown they’re willing to list to every trade, but the one sending Joey Votto to the Toronto Blue Jays could be something beyond the realm of possibility, although anything can happen.
Votto, who was born in Toronto, has been with the Reds since his first day in the majors. The 2010 MVP has a no-trade clause but it is believed that the Blue Jays are probably the only team he’d be willing to waive that clause for at this point of his career. The 33-year old has seven more guaranteed seasons at $179 million, and a team option worth $20 million in 2024. It’s understandable why the Reds would consider trading him, even if Votto, the 2010 MVP, is still performing at a high level, and is probably the only meaningful piece left of the Reds three postseason appearances from 2010 through 2013.
And Votto did do pretty well in 2016, as the Reds carried on with the gutting of their expensive players in favor of getting younger and cheaper. Rebuilding, or tanking, in other words. They actually won more games in 2016 (68) compared to 2015 (64), but that’s not an improvement that actually says something. The Reds seem to be at least one more season of developing and adding pieces away from competing for a playoff spot.
Votto batted .326 in 2016, his best since 2012, and led the NL with a.434 OBP. He hit 29 home runs, just like last season, posted a .985 OPS, and his OPS+ of 160 was the best among National League players. In a team filled with prospects and younger players with little experience, Votto stood out not just with his age, but in his consistency, power and overall performances. He didn’t make the All-Star game for the third straight season, but just like last year, his name should come up a few times in the MVP voting.
So, is there an offer the Reds actually consider for him? General manager Dick Williams makes it seem like Votto has a special standing in Cincinnati, one that prevents them from trading him, at least while he’s still posting elite numbers at the plate: We’ve traded away a lot of players we’ve drafted and developed. He’s one of the few that remains. There’s a sentimental connection with fans no doubt. But it doesn’t have anything to do with attendance and draw. It’s about performance. He delivers.
The last part is the interesting one: It’s about performance, and he delivers. So when Votto stops delivering? Hard to tell, especially because Votto’s contract is so difficult to move when you consider his age and the inevitable drop off in numbers at some point in the future, maybe even the near future. There’s nothing wrong with loyalty, which is rarer and rarer in pro sports. But despite the unlikeliness of it, don’t think there’s a 0% chance Votto ends up elsewhere. Stranger, more complicated deals have happened.