The Yankees are in need of several players, and one of the additions needed is at first base. Barring a change in heart from last season, it seems like the Yankees prefer to not move forward with Luke Voit as the everyday first baseman and instead use that position to meet their needs of a lefty bat and solid infield defender. The potential reunion with Anthony Rizzo is probably the most likely situation. Then of course, there’s the player everybody dreams about, Matt Olson of the A’s. That’s far less likely than the Rizzo return.
For this post, I will introduce another player into the fold who is likely even more of a pipe dream: Joey Votto. Like Olson, Votto is a lefty-hitting first baseman playing for a team whose short-term playoff picture is extremely bleak. Like Olson, Votto is a great hitter who plugs in perfectly to the Yankees lineup. Most importantly, like Olson, the odds that this move happens are slim, albeit for different reasons.
For starters, Votto has a no-trade clause with the Reds that he is unlikely to waive to join any team. He’s spent his entire 14-year career in Cincinnati and has stuck with the team through thick and thin. The team hasn’t had any championship success since he’s been there, but he has remained loyal regardless. At this point, it would take an overwhelming offer for the Reds, on top of it being a perfect situation for Votto to acquiesce.
Despite all that, this must be a possibility that Brian Cashman has considered in the many multiverses that could be the Yankees’ 2022 roster. It feels like every year that we hear the Cincinnati Reds are looking to cut payroll heading into the season. For that reason, it cannot be entirely ruled out that the Reds won’t at least entertain offers for their franchise player, who is due to make at least $57 million* in the next three seasons.
*Votto has a $20 million option for 2024 that can be bought out for $7 million.
Of the Reds players guaranteed to be on their roster next season, Votto is the only one with a salary north of $20 million. In a world where sentiment and no-trade clauses do not exist, he is a perfect candidate to be moved by a team with a cheap owner. He is undoubtedly past his peak, but his recent power surge and 80-grade baseball IQ give him a good chance to produce up to (and possibly beyond) his dollar figure for the rest of his contract if you think of it in terms of surplus value.
While Steamer projects Votto to return back to a slightly above-average hitter with a 115 wRC+, I’m actually very excited to see what Votto can do with his new swing for a full season. I know the aging curve is unavoidable, but players like Votto seem to always figure out how to get the most out of themselves. An IQ like that is a great addition to a clubhouse, regardless of the player’s performance.
Lastly, let’s talk potential package. In order to get a team to take on Votto’s salary, the Reds might have to attach either a solid, major league level prospect, or a current big leaguer with a few years of control left. Given that the Reds’ farm system isn’t fantastic, and their window would be pushed back by trading Votto, trading prospects wouldn’t make sense.
Because of that, I’d say a player like Tyler Mahle — who Andrés will profile later today — makes a lot of sense in this deal for both the Yankees and Reds. Mahle has two years of control left and is the quality of starting pitcher that will warrant the Yankees including higher tier prospects. Again, this is a significant shoot for the stars, but it’s the only way I see a Votto deal happening.
All of the options must be entertained. Yes, Joey Votto is probably going to be on the Reds in 2022, but you truly never know! Cincinnati ownership could hate the terms that come of the next CBA and decide that it’s time to sell off all the players. We won’t know the answer for sure until the Yankees have their next first baseman.