But when you’re a team that is really in the midst of rebuilding for the future, a 3-16 start after 3 years of 90+ losses is not a promising sign that things will turn around anytime soon. And given the pitching woes Cincinnati has, it REALLY seems like it is more of a sign of things to come than “oh, they’ll snap out of it.”
I believed Cincinnati was on the upswing this year with a solid lineup and a youthful group of pitchers which included a guy I was high on in Luis Castillo. Of course, it hasn’t panned out that way. Eugenio Suarez is on the DL with a fractured thumb, Joey Votto has been off to a very slow start (and only Billy Hamilton has a lower OPS than Votto with the everyday lineup; though Hamilton has a HR, one more than Votto), only one hitter (Tucker Barnhart) has an OPS over .700 right now and Jesse Winker is the only other Red getting on base. The rotation outside of Homer Bailey has been an epic disaster. Luis Castillo’s ERA is 6.75 entering today’s game in St. Louis. And the other 3 of Sal Romano, Tyler Mahle, and Brandon Finnegan have an astounding ERA of over 5 (Finnegan is over 10). Rasiel Iglesias has been great for the Reds, but they cannot get to him in the 9th as Cincinnati cannot get a lead to that point. So yeah, saying the Reds are off to a slow start is an understatement.
Which means if things continue, the Reds will be one of the first teams to open up sale in July. And the usual suspects will be available, as in veterans (Cliff Pennington), soon-to-be free agents (Devin Mesoraco), etc. and maybe even a few guys who are locked into contracts that could help the Reds get ready for the show prospects (Adam Duvall, Billy Hamilton).
However, SHOULD the Reds trade Joey Votto?
Votto is locked up for another 6 years, meaning his contract ends when he is 41. It is an insane amount of years with an insane amount of money for a team that isn’t known for being a big-spending team.
However, Votto is probably the best Red since Barry Larkin or even Pete Rose or Johnny Bench. A Hall of Fame nod is probably likely as well (the numbers of total hits and HR may not suffice as he is still 400 hits away from 2,000 and slightly less than 250 HR away from 500), but given he’s a 5-time All-Star, a Gold Glover, and an MVP, the track record speaks for itself.
But let’s face it: yes, the Reds are young as a whole. Was Bryan Price the right guy for the job? No and that’s why he’s no longer the manager. But the Reds hitters put up quality offensive numbers thanks in part to the small, cozy Great American Ballpark. The pitchers numbers are often blitzed. And we’re seeing in Colorado, which their ballpark is an offensive haven thanks to the altitude effect, that it is hard to be considered a true championship contender. And it is going to be very hard when you have the likes of the Cubs, Cardinals, and currently the Brewers in the NL Central just running roughshod.
Votto is going to be 35 in September. It doesn’t seem to me like Cincinnati will be a threat anywhere down the road. That contract may be an albatross to a franchise like Cincinnati, like we are seeing with Miguel Cabrera’s contract in Detroit, handcuffing the Tigers (as was Justin Verlander’s contract, but Detroit was thankful to move it to Houston last year).
I don’t see Joey Votto continuing this epic fail where he’s trailing the powerful Billy Hamilton in home runs by the end of May. He will get better. However, Votto is no longer in his prime and you wonder if he is following a similar path to Cabrera where the bottom falls out (like it fell out for Miggy in 2017) and you don’t see the .330 average with 30 HR and an OPS north of .900 but a .280 with 20 and an OPS south of .800. But it is something the Reds HAVE to consider doing is finding a way to get off the hook on Votto’s contract somehow.
Of course, the Votto contract will shy away practically everybody with a pulse. You can forget the likes of Tampa Bay and Oakland right off the bat (as if they’d consider it anyway). But any team in the process of rebuilding won’t have any interest (Atlanta, Miami, ChiSox), and teams with all-star first basemen (Chicago Cubs, Arizona, Dodgers) are pretty much out. Which means it brings the forefront of two teams: the Red Sox and Yankees. But Boston is having a great start from Mitch Moreland and the Yankees are high on Tyler Austin at first, unless New York uses Votto at DH. So really the lone team that could take on his contract and would be a “fit” would be the Yankees.
Of course, the big thing would be “well, what would the haul be for prospects?” And honestly, it may not be needed for prospects as it would be for payroll relief a la Miami. And the Reds have one of the top 10 farm systems in all of baseball, so it wouldn’t be like what we saw with the Tigers last year where they HAD to replenish a barren and godawful farm system that many ranked at the bottom of the bigs.
To be fair, I think the Reds need to make a painful move of trading Votto. It isn’t easy, but he won’t win a title in Cincinnati. But also, the Reds would be better off, having money that is needed and just really seeing what the future holds. Is trading Votto the solution to all of the Reds’ problems? No, but at this point there is no need to keep a veteran like Votto for sentimental reasons. And if it continues, the Reds will remain in baseball’s cellar, even with a strong farm system.
-Fan in the Obstructed Seat