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.