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Envisioning a Joey Votto Trade

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The rebuild is underway, and with it, should the Reds be seriously shopping Joey Votto? What could they get for his services?

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With the Brandon Phillips trade all but dead, the Reds are, at the moment, left with one less asset to deal for pieces to add to the next contending puzzle. Aroldis Chapmanonce all but traded to the Dodgers, still lingers in MLB's domestic incident policy investigation, and almost certainly will not be traded until that issue is resolved. Arguably the most valuable of all the assets available for purchase from the Reds, Todd Frazier, has already been moved. Other than a few dabbles left to do in free agency and/or a minor deal to made here and there (or a sudden jump in the market for Jay Bruce), the Reds off season shuffling may indeed be coming to an end.

Unless the Reds wanted to get serious about fielding interest for Joey Votto.

It was a topic that our friends at Beyond the Box Score floated yesterday, that can be summed up like this: Of course the Reds should be fielding serious interest for Joey Votto.

But what BtBS doesn't get into is what a trade for Joey Votto could realistically look like.

First, of course, is the issue of that pesky no trade clause included into Votto's gargantuan contract. As the Reds have found out recently, negotiating around those things can be particularly tricky. And Votto has explicitly said that he had no plans of waiving said clause, if you take much stock into what players say hypothetically about such things.

But, even beyond that, is there any way that a Joey Votto trade could make sense for both sides? As BtBS sets out:

Considering the team would be getting one of the best pure hitters of this generation, three top prospects would have to be a starting point for discussions for the Reds. A deep-pocketed team needing a first baseman looking to win now with a deep farm system could be a good trade partner.

So we're already limited to only a handful of suitors, all of which must check off these boxes:

  • Lots of cash. Lots of it.
  • Needs a 1B (Or, presumably is an AL team who has a 1B that can slide into the DH to make room for Votto)
  • Wants to win now.
  • Has a deep farm system.
How many teams currently fit that criteria at this moment? The article mentions the Boston Red Sox, which are surely a fit, but their farm team ain't what it used to be. Are they the only ones? The Yankees are always a fit when it comes to money, but their roster doesn't feature an obvious fit since they're still obligated to play tons of money to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez to play baseball somewhere in their lineup. Besides, does a package around Jorge Mateo, Aaron Judge, and Gary Sanchez get the job done?

The Dodgers have the money (presumably all of the money), and obviously one of the stronger farm systems in baseball, but also still employ Adrian Gonzalez and still find themselves in a league with no designated hitter.

The Texas Rangers look like at least part of a fit, as they've not been afraid to spend money in the past, and a package of prospects that could involve Joey Gallo, Nomar Mazara, and/or Dillon Tate would be enough to get the Reds thinking. Then again, the Rangers have a lot of money tied up into the futures for aging players, and I'd think they'd really have to want to win badly to consider adding another $200 million. Asking the Reds to kick in very much money in the deal is likely a nonstarter.

There's also the issue of the 2016 free agent class that hasn't yet worked itself out. Justin Upton and Yoenis Cespedes have yet to sign, but maybe more prudently, free agent 1B slugger Chris Davis is also still available. A team in need of a first baseman may be more willing to just plug in Chris Davis at nearly $100 million cheaper with their farm system in tact. No one will mistake Chris Davis for Joey Votto, but he's a player that has a 6 to 7 WAR ceiling, at least in the short term.

If the Reds get a package that blows them away and aren't asked to take on a significant part of the contract load, they should absolutely see if they can convince Joey Votto into a trade. But, maybe 2016 isn't the time to do it.

The 2017 free agent class is significantly less stocked than 2016's, meaning teams that are looking to make big moves to win in the short term are going to be more likely to look at blockbuster trades in order to move the needle. The usual suspects will all still be there (some more willing, ready, and able with big contracts coming off the books), and while Votto will also be one year older, he'll also cost $20+ million less.

The Reds know the risk involved with delaying these types of decisions, but it seems that the stars might align more favorably for them to reap more from a deal involving Joey Votto after the 2016 season rather than right now. Then again, it will always come down to whether or not Joey Votto wants to go. And that will be the case this year, next year, and every year thereafter.

So what do you think? When should the Reds push their largest trade chip and best player to the center of the table? And what do you think a Joey Votto blockbuster would look like? Two top prospects? Three? Could the Reds really buy the farm and see themselves contending sooner rather than later as a result?