Votto’s contract details paint a scary picture for Reds fans

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The Reds inked first baseman Joey Votto to a three-year, $38 million contract extension on Sunday, buying out all three of his arbitration-eligible seasons.  Now John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer has the financial breakdown of the deal.

Votto will earn a $5 million salary in 2011, a $9.5 million salary in 2012 and a $17 million salary in 2013.

The Reds also gave Votto a $6 million signing bonus, but they spread it out over the next four years due to budgetary concerns.  He got $2.5 million when he signed the dotted line last weekend, he will get $1.5 million in 2012 and a late $2 million payment in 2014.

Why the late payment on the signing bonus?  According to Fay, the Reds have determined they can not afford to pay $20 million per season — or even $19 million per season — to one player and still remain competitive.  That almost certainly means that Votto will leave Cincinnati when he becomes a free agent after the 2013 season.

Unless, of course, things change and the Reds find a new way to pump revenue into the club.  With a solid group of young players, they should be good for the next several years.  Maybe the fans will begin to pack Great American Ballpark every night and maybe jerseys will begin flying off the shelves.  But there is no reason to think that will happen.  Last year, when Cincy captured its first National League Central title since 1995, the club finished 20th in overall attendance with an average of 25,438 fans per game.

They’ll have to do better.