Reds general manager Walt Jocketty adamantly denied last week that the team was considering trading first baseman Joey Votto, saying, “We’re not shopping him. We’re not entertaining offers . . . He’s one of the best players in the game. Why would we trade him?”
Well, the Reds actually have very good reasons to trade Votto – he will earn $17 million in 2013, he is a free agent after that season and it’s doubtful that the team can sign him to a long-term deal at market value.
But Jocketty doesn’t need to act now.
The Reds’ more likely strategy is to wait for the two top free-agent first basemen, the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols and Brewers’ Prince Fielder, to sign their next contracts.
At that point, the Reds could offer Votto an extension – and they also would have a better idea of which teams might be interested in trading for Votto, the 2010 National League MVP.
If Votto rejected the Reds’ offer, the team could simply keep him until the end of his contract, paying him $9.5 million in ’12 and then the $17 million in ’13.
Or, the Reds could start listening to trade offers, telling their fans, “We took our best shot, but couldn’t get a deal done.”
The Reds would not want to trade Votto within the NL Central, so their options would increase if Pujols and Fielder remained in the division – say, Pujols with the Cardinals and Fielder with the Cubs.
Either way, talk of a Votto trade is certain to resurface. The Reds opened last season with a $76 million payroll, only to see their home attendance increase by less than 2,000 per game coming off a division title.
It would be difficult to imagine them committing nearly one-fourth or even one-fifth of their payroll to Votto in ’13 when they would be not assured of keeping him long-term.