The Cincinnati Reds have collapsed over the last three years, and need to deal their veteran first baseman while he still has real value.
The Cincinnati Reds have a tremendous history in Major League Baseball, especially over the last half-century during which they have won three World Series championships.
In more recent years, the Reds won the NL Central Division crown in both 2010 and 2012, and reached the postseason in three of the four seasons between 2010-13.
During their recent stretch of contention, first baseman Joey Votto was the key player in their lineup.
The runner-up for the 2008 NL Rookie of the Year Award, Votto became the 2010 National League Most Valuable Player.
He was an NL All-Star in each of those contending 2010-13 years, won a 2011 Gold Glove Award, and received NL MVP votes in six of seven seasons between 2009-15.
One of the game’s most consistent offensive threats, Votto is not a typical modern era free-swinger. He led all of baseball in on-base percentage twice and walks twice, and led the National League in OBP for four straight years.
Along with his patience, Votto has legitimate power as well. He has banged at least 24 home runs in seven of his eight full big league seasons (he missed much of 2014 with injuries).
Unfortunately, the talent around Votto has collapsed over the last few seasons. In 2016 the Reds experienced their third consecutive losing campaign.
Their 68-94 record gave them consecutive seasons not reaching the 70-win mark for the first time the 1948-53 teams.
Votto turned 33-years old in mid-September during the third season of a 10-year contract that guarantees him nearly $172 million through 2023.
After the 2016 MLB non-waiver trade deadline had passed, Bleacher Report ranked the Cincinnati farm system talent as 11th in baseball, so there is some hope for the future.
However, for a team that has finished as poorly as the Reds over the last three seasons, and considering that they are trying to compete in a division with the new World Series champion Chicago Cubs and the NL’s perennial power Saint Louis Cardinals, much more work needs to be done.
To that end, the Reds management needs to begin the process of aggressively shopping Votto for the best possible prospect package.
Votto will not be around, or at least will be an aging player well past his prime, by the time the Reds can legitimately expect to compete again for a MLB postseason berth.
But his performance over the last two years shows that Votto can still be an impactful, even a difference-making player, for a contending team right now.
Votto has 58 home runs, 177 RBI, and 196 runs scored over the past two years. He had a .314/.459/.541 slash line in 2015 when he finished 3rd in NL MVP voting, and a .326/.434/.550 line this past season.
Moving Votto to a contender and getting a couple of highly rated prospects in return is the right move for the Cincinnati Reds future. Club management needs to act right now, this off-season, while his value remains high.