Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Should the Reds trade Joey Votto?

Listening to WLW 700's Lance McAlister on the Cincinnati Reds pregame show, one would think Lance wants to trade Reds first baseman Joey Votto. He cites a current article by Ken Rosenthal to add to the speculation that the Reds might want to deal Votto. Rosenthal thinks that trading Votto now would get more value since Votto's contract for next year is nine million, and seventeen million for the third and final year. I'm not sure why Rosenthal writes this unless he wants a major market team to get one of the premiere players in baseball. Okay, that's cynical. But let's analyze the idea of trading Votto.

To analyze whether the Reds should trade Joey Votto, we must look at what are the Reds goals? Frankly, I don't know what the goals of the Reds are. I can try to interpret Reds owner Bob Castellini's goals for the Reds but owners can say one thing and do another. So let's go over possible goals for the Reds.

1. Maximize Profits. In baseball, if you trade a major player, you must have someone in return or in the minors to take his place. There is an exception to this rule. If your goal is to simply make money and not be concerned about winning then the bottom line rules. See the Pittsburgh Pirates who trade their best players when they become eligible to become free agents. Of course, the Pirates don't' win. They have now gone nineteen straight losing seasons. And while I blame Major League Baseball for not having a salary cap where teams have equal chances, the Pirates ownership have set a course to only follow their bottom line.

We don't know what the Reds payroll is. It requires an assumption that the Reds can't afford Votto come year three. It also begs the question why did the Reds sign Votto in 2011 for a three year contract? But assuming it's all about maximizing the profits, then trading Votto this off season makes sense.

Of course trading Votto for the bottom line sends the white flag to the fans that you have no intention of competing for the playoffs. If you followed the 2011 Reds, you would find the Reds did not hit with runners in scoring position. Joey Votto who was MVP in 2010, hits an astounding .350 with runners in scoring position (RISP) for his career. Trading Votto exacerbates the Reds weak RISP even further.

Lance likes to talk about trading Votto to the Toronto Blue Jays for Jose Bautista. I've already analyzed this trade. It's a big mistake. Bautista is four years older than Votto. He was a journeyman outfielder before he came to Toronto. Then out of nowhere, he hits 54 home runs. ESPN says there's some evidence that the Blue Jays steal signs. Is there another reason for Bautista's power surge? I don't know. Regardless, Bautista does not hit with runner in scoring position. And if Bautista tanks for the Reds, the team will eat two more years on his contract than Votto's. That comes out to 28 million dollars.

2. Win a championship. If the goal is to win a championship, trading Joey Votto makse no sense. One, Votto is a premiere player. He hits in the clutch. You might want to say the Reds can put Yonder Alonso at first. But there's no proof that Alonso can hit with runners in scoring position. The purpose of the contract in 2011 was to keep Votto in Cincinnati for three more years. The Reds should use this window with Votto to expand the payroll. That doesn't mean they go nuts but the Reds should investigate signing a free agent starting pitcher. If Roy Oswalt becomes available, the Reds should look at him.

If I were to take Reds owner Bob Castellini at his word, then the Reds do not trade Votto. Remember what Castellini said when he bought the Reds. He said he would bring back championship baseball back to Cincinnati. The Milwaukee Brewers are going to lose Prince Fielder. You don't see the Brewers wringing their hands over it. They're trying to win a World Series. And winning teams don't trade their best player for prospects. Right Bob?

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