If you’re a Cincinnati Reds fan, it might be time to start worrying.
Not because of the short term – after all, the Reds (48-42) have won four straight and are just one game back in the Wild Card standings entering play July 9 – but rather, because of the long-term.
Joey Votto, who has already missed 23 games this year, was placed on the disabled list Tuesday night with a nagging thigh injury that is expected to hamper him for the rest of the season. Votto, who hit .250 after coming off the DL on June 9, hasn’t homered since May 10.
He signed a 12-year, $251.5 million contract in April 2012.
Just what are the small-market Reds going to do with Votto and his contract – both now and in the coming years?
“It’s a great question,” FOX Sports MLB columnist Rob Neyer said on The Morning Show. “Almost every deal – I don’t care who the player is – every deal that runs for that many years winds up being, if not a disaster, (then) certainly something the team regrets. Look at the Angels with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. I think in the Reds case, (Votto is) going to be eating up a huge percentage of their payroll for many years. That’s going to make things tougher for them.”
Votto, 30, was the National League MVP in 2010, when he hit .324 with 37 home runs, 113 RBIs and a .424 OBP in 150 games. He remains an OBP machine, but he also has just 44 home runs in his last 335 games and has spent significant time on the DL in two of the last three seasons.
Neyer is concerned by this, but not overly so.
“I think we often overestimate the role or the impact of single players and their contracts,” he said. “Even in Cincinnati where it’s going to be an issue, he can get better. The Giants had the Barry Zito deal for all those years. And granted, San Francisco isn’t Cincinnati, but there were people – and I was one of them – who said this contract could ruin the Giants for years to come. All they did was win two World Series (in three years). Now granted, the Reds probably aren’t going to do that, but they can make up for these losses with the revenue streams coming in and the big TV deals.”
The Reds, to their credit, have hung around without Votto this year. They started slow – 12-15 through April, 25-29 through May – but have gone 23-13 in their last 36 games.
It helps, of course, that All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier is having a career year. Frazier, 28, leads the team in average (.289), hits (99), home runs (17), RBIs (48) and OBP (.351). It also helps that the Reds have one of the best rotations in baseball, headlined by Johnny Cueto (9-6, 2.03 ERA), Alfredo Simon (11-3, 2.78 ERA), Mike Leake (7-7, 3.42 ERA) and Homer Bailey (8-5, 4.15 ERA).
“I think Votto’s deal is going to look bad,” Neyer said. “But I don’t think it’s going to kill the franchise.”