What Joey Votto means to the Reds

With Joey Votto signed for the next X years and for millions of dollars, the Reds are banking on him producing quite a lot for them. I'm sure there is going to be much analysis regarding his projected WAR over the term of the deal, and how that corresponds to the dollars paid, and how those dollars paid correspond to the average dollars paid for similar production on the open market. Statistical analysis is really good for this kind of stuff. If Votto can keep up the pace of his production over a certain number of years and maintain a certain level of production towards the end of this deal, it will be a good one for the Reds. Our projections seem to think it's a pretty good bet.

Of course, there are those who will argue that statistical analysis fails to capture everything. The "intangibles" are not tallied in stat lines. A player's leadership qualities are impossible to measure by the alphabet soup of WAR and FIP. The way some players can intimidate the opposition, like Votto with his bat or Aroldis Chapman with his fastball, aren't isolated by spreadsheets. These are the kinds of arguments that some will make when disparaging the advanced metrics that are espoused by this humble writer and many others like him.

What they are failing to see, of course, is that these numbers have been put through their paces. Good old-fashioned science has proven that wOBA is much, much better at measuring the efficacy of a hitter than batting average or RBIs. The correlation between WAR and actual wins in the box score is very strong. It's not really a matter of debate anymore. That extra little bit that these metrics do not explain, the intangibles, is basically negligible. Most of the time.

But then something like this happens. The numbers can project what Joey Votto is going to be worth over the life of this contract, and how much every dollar paid to him is worth in free market wins available, but in this rare instance they utterly fail at fully understanding the real value of Joey Votto the Red. This has been one of the league's most moribund, dysfunctional, impotent, and inconsequential franchises for a number of years. Most will shake their fists at past ownership groups and management teams who failed to develop resources and squandered what few were available. Most will also point fingers at a league that allows for such unbalanced distribution of resources. Not only did the Yankees develop a rare talent like Derek Jeter, but when he approached free agency there was never a question that he would be re-signed. This winter, with two years before scheduled free agency, Votto was one of the most talked-about impending free agents. The Reds could never afford a talent like his, not in a market like this.

But they signed him. Votto looks to be a Red for a very long time. And it's really difficult to say just what that means. I guess it means that the Reds will have retained the greatest talent they've developed since Barry Larkin. I guess it means that not only do they have a fair amount of money to invest in payroll, but that they are also investing it very well. I guess it means that the Votto Window is no longer applicable. This is Votto's House now, and he's staying for a very long time.

I think the most important thing it means though is that I have hope. We as fans of a mid-market franchise have labored under a delusion that to win, our team must work in cycles. Develop talent, deploy that talent, then sell off that talent for future talent when it gets too expensive. It's a cruel reality, we all said, but one that can be managed if the cards are played right. But it's not true. Not anymore. Signing Joey Votto to a long-term deal breaks that cycle. Not only can the Reds develop the talent, but they can retain that talent, too. They don't have to trade him for prospects or hope to get draft picks when he signs elsewhere. He's a Red, and he will be a Red for a long time. And I look forward to showing my future kids his statue on Crosley Terrace. WAR just can't measure the value of that.

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