I doubt this post will be well received, but I don't believe signing Votto to an extension is a prudent move right now. I'm sure many of you will disagree, but I've given this some thought and can support my position. Before I do, let me say that giving Bruce the extension he got makes all the sense in the world, and I'm behind that 100%. Like many of the rest of the Red Reporter community, I'm not thrilled with the Arroyo and Cairo deals, but ultimately think they do little (if any) harm to the team's prospect for success going forward. I point this out just to make it clear that I tend to think similarly to most of you on these matters as a general rule.
Now, for the reasons I think signing Votto to an extension right now is a bad idea. First, the timing couldn't be worse. The signing of Bruce was brilliant. I suspect he'll break out in a big way this year, and the Reds will reap the benefits for years to come. Not so with Votto. He's already broken out; they're a year too late. By offering him an extension now, the Reds would be saying that they expect Votto to perform at a comparable level for each year of the contract. I like Votto and definitely think he is the Reds best player, but to expect him to be an MVP candidate for each of the next 4, 5, or 6 years is too much to expect. For every Albert Pujols who can maintain that level of performance consistently from year to year, there are a bunch of Alfonso Sorianos - guys who put together a great year at just the right time to acquire a big contract that becomes an albatross to the team. I don't expect Votto to be a flop, but at what the Reds would have to pay him now, he'd have to be a 5-6 win player every season. I can't say I really expect that.
Second, I don't see why the Reds can't wait and face the same decision next year. There are a bunch of reasons why this makes sense. For one, if Votto performs to the same standard he set this year, you feel a whole lot better about his ability to be an MVP-type player every year. You've just reduced the likelihood that the contract would be a colossal blunder that would hamper the organization for years. If Votto performs poorly, he's coming off a down year and could be extended at a lower salary.
A second reason to wait a year is that it gives the team a year to try Yonder Alonso out in the outfield (assuming they don't trade him first). The Reds will get to see how Alonso glove plays out there, but they'll also get to see how close his bat really is to replacing Votto's production. I'm sure the answer right now is "not close", but by the end of the year, who knows. After next year, the team will really need to make a decision on Alonso, and waiting to extend Votto keeps the team's options open.
The final reason I suggest waiting another year is simply the money required to make it happen. Votto would likely get $8-10 Million this year through arbitration or a one-year deal. Fay estimated that it would take $53 million to sign him to a 4-year extension. I suspect that number would be closer to $60-70 million at this point, but that's just a guess. If Votto's true talent level warrants $25 million per year (which, he was a 7-win MVP this year, so that's still conservative), then his arbitration years would pay $10, $15, and $20 million (following the typical Fangraphs 40/60/80 assumption), followed by $25 million for each year thereafter. That's $70 million over 4 years, and more in line with what I expect. Fast forward to next year. After he gets $10 million in arbitration this year, could he be signed for $60 million for three years? It sounds like a lot of money that way, but it is the same thing as locking him up for four years now. And there's a good chance that it would take less than $60 million next year to lock him up for those three years.
Add it all up, and I think the thing for the Reds to do is wait a year for the Votto extension.