- First baseman on the field, first in your heart
- 36 years old
- Canadian Prime Minister*
- Bats left, throws right
- Can absolutely dunk, natch.
- Has carried this team for a decade.
- Drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 2nd round (44th overall) out of Richview Collegiate Institute in Toronto, Canada in 2002.
- Made his MLB debut Sept. 4, 2007.
- Signed largest contract in Reds history when he agreed to a 10-year, $225 million extension in 2012.
|162 Game Avg.||162||696||574||95||176||38||2||27||89||7||3||111||124||.307||.421||.519||.941||150||298||14||6||0||4||13|
Ken Gif-y Jr.
It is so incredibly weird to think about the Cincinnati Reds offense and not automatically jump to the name “Joey Votto” when deciding who the most important player is. For the last decade, when healthy, Votto was by far (and sometimes far and away) the best player. He was the engine that made everything else go, a perennial MVP candidate, or at least a guy who could’ve been or should’ve been in the conversation if only the team around him could win more games.
From 2010 through 2017, Votto led the Reds in bWAR in every season but 2014, when he missed 100 games due to injury. Even in 2012, where he missed around 50 games to a knee injury, Votto outpaced the other closest Reds position player (Brandon Phillips) by 2 bWAR. In a “down” 2018 season, he was third in the ranking (3.5), and close to first (Scooter Gennett) than fifth (Jose Peraza).
He didn’t bounce back in a way we all expected he might in 2019. And, as the “Get the Pitching” offseason of 2019 has transitioned to “Get the Hitting 2020”, the offense seems to be flush with potentially potent bats.
These don’t have to be, and probably aren’t, Joey Votto’s Reds anymore.
In practice, that statement has probably been true for at least a season now. Eugenio Suarez has blossomed into one of the game’s best players over the last two seasons, and was easily the best offensive player on the team in 2019. Even if the Reds hadn’t brought in several offensive pieces for the 2020 season, it was more likely than not the burden of the Reds offense would lie on Suarez’s shoulders rather than Votto’s.
Still, the additions of Mike Moustakas, Nick Castellanos, and Shogo Akiyama project to all fill out the questionable offensive voids from 2019, as do the hopefully continued varying ascensions of Jesse Winker, Nick Senzel, and Aristides Aquino. For the first time in a decade, the fate of the Reds offense doesn’t begin (and potentially end) with Joey Votto. He doesn’t have to carry the weight of Cincinnati.
None of that is to say that he isn’t vitally important to the team’s ceiling this coming summer. A rejuvenated, bounce back season from the former MVP would potentially put this offense in the elite category. A Joey Votto that is able to reach something like his .400+ OBP peak would make the lineup a horror show for opposing pitchers. And “rejuvenated” may be the important word here; Votto was limited a few different times in the 2019 season with lingering back injuries. Any of us that have made it to and passed that 30+ year old mark should be able to sympathize.
It was more likely than not the back injuries that sapped the power from Votto. His .357 on-base percentage still tied for second on the 2019 club, only a tick lower than Suarez’s team lead. However, his .411 slugging number and 15 home runs left a lot to be desired, especially considering the home run environment that was the 2019 regular season. While seemingly everyone was hitting the ball out of the ballpark at a career rate, Votto posted the worst (non-2014) slugging numbers of his career.
Shirking the nagging back problems can only help. Still, at 36 years old, the man isn’t getting any younger. Father time is undefeated, after all. But that’s kind of the point; the Reds don’t have to rely on Joey Votto to play at an MVP level to make noise this year. Being merely above average raises the floor significantly. Anything more is just gravy for the team, rather than the starting point.