After a semi-long hiatus, mostly the result of a week in Florida and a week of playing catch up at work, yesterday brought baseball news that cannot be brushed aside. In case Big Red Smokey is your primary news source, let me just tell you that while nothing is official, it appears that the Reds may be signing Joey Votto to a 10 year, 225 million dollar extension. Indications are that this is on top of the 2 years, 26 million dollars he has remaining on his current contract. In total, this would mean the Reds are committing 12 years, 251 million dollars to their MVP first baseman, who would hopefully man the position through 2023.
Those last three sentences probably warrant a second or third read. Every Reds fan – nay, every baseball fan - should be stunned. We had all but accepted the fact that Votto’s time with the Reds would end in two years, and we would do our best to go on without him. There was no way the Reds could afford a superstar at market value, and Votto indicated that there would be no hometown discount (can’t really blame him for that).
But when I randomly saw the link on Rotoworld, I got excited, of course. I rushed to my good friend twitter, and all afternoon different thoughts and figures were popping up. First it was the $200 million, then it was 10 years, then it was 10 years including the final two of his existing contract. Whatever it was, it didn’t matter. Life without Votto was irrelevant now, and Reds fans rejoiced.
It was a good two or three hours before I allowed myself to address a minor concern that had begun to fester. Is this a good idea? It’s funny because I honestly expected to see more backlash, as least from non-Cincinnati media, calling the decision foolish and irresponsible. There was some of that, as Keith Law noted, “the real question on the Votto deal is how soon the Reds regret it.” Law’s ESPN Insider article is exactly what I expected from the outside world. But there was actually a different tone to most comments. They didn’t focus as much on the contract as what it means for baseball.
As you may or may not know, several teams signed new local TV deals this winter, creating huge new revenue streams. Apparently this is expected to continue. On top of that, the recent sale of the Dodgers for over $2 billion seems to have been eye opening for many. If that kind of value is contained within teams, it would logically follow that there’s money to be spent that hasn’t been realized. Votto wasn’t the only player to make news yesterday. The Giants’ Matt Cain was officially given a massive, nine-figure contract that on the surface looks like an over pay. However, given all this talk on the new state of baseball, who knows anymore.
Think about this – Votto was still two years away from free agency. The Reds weren’t bidding against anyone but themselves. And while no one expected a hometown discount, the Reds are a good fit for Votto, and he knew it. Votto noted to John Fay yesterday, “I’m about to sign a huge deal, John, and you’re the only media I have to answer to.” Yet look at those figures. There isn’t one iota of an indication that anything was left on the table. The Reds just committed more than three times the salary of their entire roster last year. They’ve contructed the longest contract in the history of baseball.
Yesterday afternoon, initial indications were that the extension resulted in a 10 year, $200 million contract that included the next two years. I was ok with that. That number seemed reasonable*. Yes it was a huge risk, but given everything I’ve mentioned, and the fact that it’s JOEY VOTTO, I was ok with it. As Joel Luckhaupt pointed out, one could conclude that the Reds saved around $40-50 million, if you compared the contract to potential full market price.
*You know what I mean.
But nope. Throw that out the window because this is value times 100%, maybe more. But again, I don’t think any of us really know what this is going to mean. The Reds’ TV deal is up for renegotiation in 2015 I think, and it will be our turn for new revenue streams. As usual, Dave Cameron over at Fangraphs does a great job reflecting on the deal while maintaining perspective on everything else. Maybe this is the new standard. Maybe teams won’t have the revenue concerns of the past decade, and locking up MVP caliber players for the next 4-5 years is worth the over pay at the back end. Chances are Votto’s not going to be an All Star when he’s 38 or 39. In fact, Cameron has him barely above replacement. And of course the Reds don’t have a DH spot to fall back on. Do you know many 38-year-old starting first basemen? Todd Helton is one, limping to the end of his 10 year contract. Many casual baseball fans don’t realize he’s still playing.
But enough of that. Bottom line, Votto’s and Red, and likely will be for the duration of his career. I love that. Sadly, this is no longer common in baseball, but for the second time in as many generations, Cincinnati will have its superstar spending his entire career in a Reds uniform. As Red Reporter put it:
The irrational love from Reds fans for this extension might have something to do with “hey wait up guys, we can spend a ton of money too”… more importantly, it’s that we keep our best player/generational player even tho free agent doctrine says we’re not allowed.