Ever since Joey Votto won the 2010 NL MVP award, it seemed like Reds fans were counting down the days to his departure. The Reds weren’t going to pony up the money Votto so clearly deserved, and Votto, for his part, seemed OK with the idea of spending the second half of his career in another city.
So much for that idea.
The Reds on Monday gave Votto the fourth biggest contract in big-league history and the biggest to go to a non-free agent. The reported 10-year, $225 million extension is actually going to be added to his previous deal, which pays him $9.5 million this year and $17 million in 2013. All told, the Reds have committed to him for $251.5 million through 2023, his age-39 season.
It’s an incredible commitment and a giant risk, given the number of years involved. Votto is one of the game’s best players now, but there’s no telling whether he will be five or eight years down the road. On the plus side, he is pretty athletic for a first baseman and he’s not someone who figures to have to finish his career as a DH. Yet there’s certainly little reason to think he’ll be anything close to a $20 million-$23 million player from age 34 on.
Given that they controlled him for two more years anyway, the Reds went too far overboard here. Matt Kemp, a similar talent with a less consistency in his track record, recently signed for $160 million over eight years and he was just one year away from free agency, not two. Ryan Braun’s odd five-year extension (for 2016-20) with the Brewers was worth $105 million, or $21 million per year. The Reds topped both those deals in years and salary in order to get Votto done.
Of course, this wasn’t just about on-field performance. This was about TV money and having a superstar in the fold as they seek to negotiate their next deal. Locked at in those terms, maybe it was worth it for the Reds to to be so bold. That’s really the only way a 12-year commitment makes sense.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.