A few months ago, riverfront76 proclaimed this off-season was to be "The Most Important Winter of All Time". Here's the take away:
"The Reds aren't the best team on paper heading into the winter, but they're close...possibly as close as they've been since some unknown 28 year old third baseman named Albert Pujols showed up in Cardinals camp all those years ago. The void the team has been waiting for has arrived, and it's time to take advantage. I don't know right now which opportunities will be there. Which free agents, which trade targets to chase will be tackled in time. For now, a hope and a plea: the goal is again within range. Take the shot."
Oh boy, did they ever take the shot. The "void" rf76 talked about has become colloquially known as "The Votto Window", or the two years that the Reds have Joey Votto under contract. The availability of one the best hitters in baseball, coupled with the relative weakness of the rest of the NL Central, gives the Reds the best chance they have seen in years to go for it all. Walt Jocketty recognized it for what it was, put on his lucky space commander helmet, and went for the gusto.
The trade targets he chased were the best available starting pitcher (Mat Latos) and the best available reliever (Sean Marshall). The big free agent acquisition he targeted - in what I think is one of the most brilliant tactical moves in recent baseball history - was the best closer on the market (Ryan Madson), and that after waiting for prices to fall to nearly absurd levels. We all knew that the pitching staff was the big weakness that kept the team around .500 last year. It now looks very formidable.
Viewed through the lens of the Votto Window strategy, these moves look nothing short of brilliant. There is a very strong case to be made that the Reds are the team to beat in the NL Central heading into the 2012 season. This is all incredibly exciting, right? The Votto Window is wide open and the team is poised to chuck a cinder block through it! Well, hold on. Here's why you should be even MORE excited.
There is no debate that Joey Votto is the best player on this team. There is some debate as to whether or not he'll be here after the two years is up. But for the sake of argument, let's assume the Votto Window is only two years. What happens then? Well, presumably the Reds will be left a shell of a team and will be forced to rebuild. But wait. Let's take a look at a projected Vottoless roster in 2014. The rotation will still have Latos and Cueto for another two years. Mike Leake, too. Aroldis Chapman should have at least another two years. Jay Bruce will still be under contract for at least two years. Same for Drew Stubbs. Devin Mesoraco will still have four years of control left. That is a very solid core of extremely talented players. And all of them will still be in their primes. Add in the fact that the current big money contracts (Bronson Arroyo, Scott Rolen, Ryan Madson, and presumably Brandon Phillips and Joey Votto) will be off the books, and not only will the team have an impressive core to build around, but the money to do the necessary building.
So I don't know about this whole Votto Window strategy. While I'm absolutely thrilled to see this team dominate over the next two seasons, I'm equally confident that will continue to be contenders in the years that follow. This is the best looking Reds baseball team we have seen in a few decades. And that is the genius of Walt Jocketty.