Joey Votto’s lack of RBI was a talking point throughout the season, especially among those in the Cincinnati media. They lamented his lack of RBI, suggesting that rather than going up to the plate looking to drive in runs, Votto was being passive by instead aiming to draw walks. Despite hitting third in the Reds’ lineup, Votto finished the season with 73 RBI and a league-leading 135 walks and a .435 on-base percentage.
Throughout the season, Votto was asked to respond to the criticism and he always responded to it the same, defending his approach and suggesting that the focus on RBI was unfounded. He said pitchers tended to pitch around him and rather than expand the strike zone, he was content letting them toss ball four and letting Brandon Phillips — who finished with a career-high 103 RBI — take a shot.
Votto appeared on Cincinnati’s ESPN 1530 with Lance McAlister, discussing various topics, including his controversial 2013 season. Votto’s tune hasn’t changed. He still thinks he had a fine season and even likened it to his 2012 season when he finished with a 1.041 OPS. Some choice quotes from the interview:
“A lot of complaints this year were about my lack of RBIs. I know that, in an ideal world, there would have been a 100 in the RBI category, but that’s just one number. A player should not be judged based on one particular number.”
“My first goal is to drive the runner in so I can get on base. Get a hit and hand the bat to the next guy so we can continue to score runs. […] I’m really, really greedy, so I want to get a hit. And if that hit doesn’t come […] then it ends up being a walk.”
It is an enlightening interview and worth a full listen-through. You can’t argue with Votto’s understanding of the game. Given his responses during the season, I thought he was too conciliatory to the critics (and to be clear, McAlister was not one of them). He talked about the criticism motivating him and making him better, the kind of statement he might make if he were running for office. During the season, Votto told David Laurila of FanGraphs that he would prefer to lead the league in OPS and WAR. That is the correct answer to the “people have complained about your lack of RBI” prompt.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.