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Reds should look to trade Joey Votto

With the Reds entering a full-on rebuild, it's time to cut ties with the superstar first baseman.

Joey Votto smoking a line drive, probably.
Joey Votto smoking a line drive, probably.
Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

With the Cincinnati Reds' recent trade of third baseman Todd Frazier to the Chicago White Sox and ongoing attempts to trade second baseman Brandon Phillips, General Manager Dick Williams and crew are bringing the Reds into full-on rebuild mode.

Just two years removed from a 90-72 season and a Wild Card Playoff berth in 2013, the Reds have fallen off the table because of various injuries and poor personnel decisions made by then-GM Walt Jocketty. The 2015 incarnation of the Reds gave hitters with sub-.300 OBPs 2018 plate appearances, 34 percent of the non-pitcher total. More than one-half (55.5%) of non-pitcher plate appearances were taken by players with an OBP at or below .310.

The in-season trades of Johnny Cueto and Mike Leake as well as Homer Bailey's elbow injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery decimated a starting rotation which proved not to have much depth. This was a big part of the problem for the Reds of the past two seasons - the inability to handle adversity as well as other teams. Playing in the most competitive division in baseball and with little in terms of contingency plans, the Reds went down the tube quickly when something went wrong.

The Reds almost followed a similar path as the Omar Minaya-era Mets: Looking good on paper and competing as long as things are fine but no more than a few fluke injuries away from giving 800 plate appearances to Damion Easley, Endy Chavez, and Marlon Anderson and having Luis Ayala trying to close games in September. Instead of Easley, Chavez, and Anderson, the Reds had the equally dreadful Skip Schumaker, Ivan DeJesus, and Jason Bourgeois.

With the strides forward that the rest of the division has taken - the Pirates reloading and the Cubs on the precipice of ending the "curse," - Williams has correctly realized that starting from ground zero is the best way for the Reds to move forward. After Williams and the Reds "tripped over themselves and fell face down into a pile of excrement" in the Frazier trade, there is a need to do better in subsequent rebuilding moves. One such move could be dealing superstar first baseman Joey Votto.

There are several obstacles in the Reds' way of dealing Votto, not the least of which is his full no-trade clause, which he said on December 4th he would not waive. Votto also has eight years and $199 million guaranteed remaining on his mega 10-year, $225 million extension signed before the 2012 season. For the purposes of this exercise, let's assume that Votto changes his mind about the no-trade clause.

Votto is an amazing player whose primary skill, plate discipline, ages very well. He is as good a bet as any to live up to the value of the remainder of his contract, and as contract inflation continues to run its course the odds will only be better. Matt Swartz's work at The Hardball Times in 2014 calculated the cost of a win for a first baseman to be $8 million per fWAR. Using that valuation, Votto was worth $59.2 million in 2015. Steamer sees Votto being worth $38.4 million in 2016 while collecting a $20 million salary. With normal aging, the 32-year-old Votto figures to be a valuable everyday player well into his late 30s.

A fair price for Votto on the trade market would probably be something along the lines of an arm, a leg, and a top prospect or two. In the case that the Reds are disinterested in receiving body parts and would rather have all prospects, a very healthy return should be expected. 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 pretty much the Boston Red Sox, despite the presence of Hanley Ramirez, who could be shuffled around the diamond in preparation for DH duty in 2017.

Since Votto is willing to waive his no-trade clause in this hypothetical, the only remaining obstacle to jumpstarting talks would be the Reds' willingness to part with him. There is a case from an attendance standpoint that even with a full rebuild, it would not be a wise move to deal Votto because of the lost revenue from fewer fans and fewer sponsorship dollars. From a competitive baseball standpoint, the Reds could be back to being a perennial contender faster if they deal Votto and get a few useful players back.


Joe Vasile is the Assistant General Manager and Voice of the Fayetteville SwampDogs of the Coastal Plain League. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeVasilePBP.