Friday, February 18, 2011

Joey Votto Contract Extension Revisited

I came across an interesting blurb on the Providence Journal website describing a statement made by Theo Epstein on a sports radio interview. The statement is rather applicable to a Reds offseason that was notable solely for its contract extensions.

Previously, I expressed my disapproval of the Joey Votto's contract extension. I just failed to see any appreciable value in it for the Reds. It makes a lot of sense for Joey Votto, but the Reds failure to buy out even a single free agent year makes it a poor one for the organization. And, interestingly enough, Theo Epstein would seem to agree:

"Our philosophy, which is actually a policy in writing, is if we're going to sign arbitration-eligible players long term, we have to get one free agent year and we have to get an option for the club. Because we're giving the player certainty. We need to be able get some of those prime years back in exchange. That makes it a fair bargain. We got that with (Kevin) Youkilis. We got that with (Dustin) Pedroia. We got that with (Jon) Lester. Those players decided to give us that flexibility in exchange for security. If players don't want to do that, that's fine with us. We'll just treat them accordingly, year to year."

Epstein's opinion is more in line with my feelings on the extension. It's interesting to note that they believe so strongly in the policy that they actually put it in writing. Not sure what type of writing that would be, but I'd love to read it. Now, there are many ways to run an organization and it must be pointed out that the Reds and Red Sox aren't identically situated. Maybe the revenue disparity between Boston and Cincinnati means that the Reds need to use different policies in regard to contract extensions. Maybe there is a rational financial basis for the Reds more heavily weighing the value of payroll savings than do the high revenue Red Sox. Personally, I tend to doubt it. I still don't see the potential cost savings as outweighing the injury/performance risk that the organization incurred.

Any discussion of the best run MLB franchises necessarily includes the Red Sox along with the Twins, Braves, Phillies, and Rays. So, when one of those franchises does something, it's worth taking note. Walt Jocketty has undoubtedly done some real nice things during his tenure as the Cincinnati GM, but I still struggle to see the value to the organization of the Votto extension. The Jay Bruce extension was a very strong move for the organization, but it might have been better for them to go year-to-year with Votto.


  1. completely off topic lark, but he probably wont make your top 25 so i wanted to ask..

    What do you think about josh smith? I heard he is a big body with a good fastball and a nasty curve. Kinda has funny mechanics but should be ok in the pen.
    It would be really cool to have a guy on my fav team with my name, he would instantly be my favorite player

  2. Lark,

    Will agree that I am not a fan of the Votto deal for obvious reasons. However I don't know that the Reds could have played this any better frankly. Policies are great and all but they don't mean squat if they don't go hand in hand with a philosophy of "what is best for the organization" in the big picture. And in that big picture if they stand any chance whatsoever of having long term success they must change how the industry views them organizationally speaking, i.e. the players. In that view this was a small concession to make IMO. What they have said with this deal is if you are a Red and conduct yourself on and off the field with the utmost professionalism all things considered we will treat you accordingly. And at the same time they haven't necessarily painted themselves into a corner of having to do the same again and again. I mean not everyone will be a true franchise player and therefore shouldn't be offended if they don't get the exact same treatment.

    The only real risk here is that Votto can and most likely will leave via FA but he was even more likely to do that without this deal. They perhaps bought a small piece of good will with Votto and probably a slightly more modest amount across the league and alot with their fan base which is key IMO. I mean did Votto not deserve what he got?

  3. He absolutely deserved it, however no matter what these next three years he would have gotten that regardless. The fact that the reds are bending over and letting votto have their way with them is what annoys me.

    Now, if he decides because of this generosity he will resign with the reds and also take a FAIR deal then ill put my foot in my mouth.

    However it seems like he doesnt really want to be here longer than he has to, and is just taking what the reds will give him until he can leave.

    If the reds would have demanded at least 1 free agent year at a discount the deal would have made more sense, as it stands now they just appear as pushovers and made a poor investment.

  4. all that being said, there is something to keeping votto happy and productive while he is here. Upsetting him over a contract to the point of interfering with his performance would be unfortunate so theres that.

    Just know i think players should be happy to play a sport for a job instead of the alternatives, so when it comes to contracts I get pretty irritated.

    Cliff Lee taking a "paycut" to go to the phillies, everyone respected him sooo much. Hes still getting paid way more than he deserves and is the favorite to win the world series, he isnt a saint people.

    Phillips and his "i want to be treated fairly, everyone else is getting contract extensions, ect" Your still one of the highest paid players on the team and starting to decline. They are young, and the core of the team. Thats what keeps teams winning

    They entire yankess lineup... dont get me started...

    Sorry for venting, just had to get that out there :]

  5. Smitty,

    Josh Smith has enough going for him to be on my radar, but I need to see quite a bit more from him before I have a good feel for his game.

    He was the Friday night starter at Lipscomb University and had a couple of 15 strikeout, complete games in his career. So, he's got good strikeout stuff, even if it wasn't against the best competition level. He red-shirted for a year, so he was a 5th year senior when drafted. As a result, he's a bit older than most prospects, so his development curve will need to be a bit shorter.

    I'll be keeping my eye on him. He's off to a good start, but ultimately I'm not sure how high his ceiling will be.


  6. Will,

    It's an interesting point. Unfortunately, I just don't think goodwill stretches very far. When the rubber meets the road, cash is king. Additionally, I think they made the statement you wanted to see them make with the Jay Bruce deal.

    They gave Bruce a long-term deal and a boatload of money. He was productive and comported himself admirably, so the Reds rewarded him accordingly. Of course, he had to give up free agency years to get an extension, but I still think that's the way it should be.

    As for whether he deserved it, he certainly earned his 2010 salary. But, I'm not giving him guaranteed cash for the next three years because he earned his 2010 salary, especially when he's already under control for those three years.

    In the end, it's not about goodwill or making a statement, it's about risk. If Votto isn't willing to give up a year or two in the deal to have it make sense for the organization, then I wouldn't have handed out the extension. I just don't see any reason to give away our leverage for nothing.

    Anyway, thanks for the thoughts.


  7. Smitty,

    I agree on Votto. It seems like a show of good faith to forfeit a year of free agency in exchange for financial security for life.

    As for the player salaries, I tend to go in the opposite direction. The revenue is being generated, so it'll either go into the pockets of the players or the owner. Personally, I prefer to see it go to the players, who are actually out there working and bleeding to generate it. As revenue rises, it has to end up somewhere.

    It'll be very interesting to see how the Reds handle Phillips. Given how tight-fisted they were this offseason, I wonder if he'll be gone after his option is exercised. Still, do we have a legitimate option in the system to replace him? I'm not sure.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment!


  8. While I agree money is going to be pocketed by the owners, its their business and their money. If an owner decides he will have an 80 million dollar payroll, then thats what his payroll will be.
    If your core costs most of your 80 million, the surrounding cast will be much weaker than if the core cost you 50 million. get my point?

  9. Smitty,

    Well, I'm more of a supporter of the players than the owners. I used to lean more towards the owners, but after reading up on baseball history and labor relations I have a hard time siding with the owners.

    The owners run an idiot proof business where it is, for all intents and purposes, impossible to fail. As part of a cooperative league, your competition isn't looking to put you out of business. Add in the fact that the fans show up to watch the players and I would rather see the players get their fair share of the revenue they generate.

    As for having a cheaper core to allow for a stronger supporting cast, I can see the advantages of it, but I'm not sure I get the overall point.

    Are you saying that the cost certainty they may have gotten with the Votto extension is positive because it enables them to have a stronger supporting cast? Or, were you making a point about Brandon Phillips?


  10. Im just saying that if players were to realize that "I dont really care about the money, I just want a fair deal that they are giving to everyone else, ownership has the money" comments are ignorant because they the more money they give one individal the worst their supporting cast is going to be. If the players really wanted to win they would sacrifice a little of their salary for a legit supporting cast

  11. Smitty,

    True. The players can sacrifice salary or the owners can up the payroll. You do see players defer money from time to time, but it doesn't always pan out. We are still paying money to Ken Griffey Jr. due to his decision to give the team more payroll space. It didn't get him a championship or even goodwill from the fans.

    And, you also see players give hometown discounts from time to time. I remember Mo Vaughn complained that Barry Larkin cost him millions when Barry signed with the Reds for a hometown discount after winning the MVP award.

    Anyway, as always, thanks for the thoughts.


  12. guess im just not going to convince you :] oh well