Reds GM Nick Krall Says Team Could Trade Joey Votto This Season

Votto would look strange in another uniform, wouldn't he?

Mar 21, 2023 at 12:35 pm
click to enlarge Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto takes the field at Great American Ball Park in 2022. - Photo: Ron Valle
Photo: Ron Valle
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto takes the field at Great American Ball Park in 2022.

Can anyone imagine Joey Votto in anything but a Cincinnati Reds uniform?

Admittedly, it's difficult. The first baseman has been a Red for his entire 16-year major-league career after the team drafted him in 2002, and he's been a leader both on and off the field, even through injuries. For many fans, moving Votto is unthinkable, especially in the twilight of his career.

But a trade could happen – particularly to the Toronto Blue Jays. Reds general manager Nick Krall told prolific baseball analyst and writer Jim Bowden on SiriusXM's show, "The GM's Corner," that under certain circumstances, Votto could head back to his native Canada. "Nick Krall #Reds GM told us their plan is for Joey Votto to finish his career as a Red. However, if the Reds are out of it at the trade deadline and Votto came to them and asked if they would trade him home to Toronto #BlueJays..he said he would consider under those circumstances," Bowden posted to Twitter during the March 20 show.

As of press time, Votto hasn't yet reacted to the comment on his social media channels. Votto is in the final year of his 10-year, $225 million contract with the Reds and has a $20 million option for 2024.

Why a Votto trade might happen

Though Krall's blunt words likely came as a shock to some fans, trading Votto may not be that far-fetched. In recent years, the Reds have not done particularly well and have not been a playoff force. Since going .513 in 2013, the team has been sub-.500 for all but two seasons – the pandemic-plagued 2020 and 2021. In 2022, the Reds posted their second-ever 100-loss season, ending with a record of 62-100. The losing also kept more fans at home, with the team experiencing its lowest season attendance since 1984; just 1,395,770 people saw the Reds play at Great American Ball Park in 2022, according to attendance records.

Cincinnati last won the National League Central in 2012 and 2010. Before that, the team won the Central in 1995. The Reds haven't won the division or the World Series since 1990. 
Moreover, the Reds' projected payroll for 2023 is just a little over $81 million, according to Spotrac. Payroll was about $112 million in 2022, about $131 million in 2021, about $57 million in 2020 (thanks, COVID-19), about $132 million in 2019 and about $101 million in 2018. With those cuts in spending, it's been harder for the Reds to remain in contention. Team owner Bob Castellini said in 2022 that he was interested in cutting payroll and taking on more rookies instead of investing in veteran power.

Lower payroll and untested players often lead to lower spots in the standings. It's not out of the question, then, that when the Aug. 1 trade deadline hits, the Reds could be tanking enough for the front office to try to move Votto.

Why Votto might and might not agree to a trade

Votto has said multiple times that he wants to remain a Red for his entire playing career. Since reaching the majors in 2007, Votto has reached a number of big-time club and league milestones, succeeding through both the finesse-pitching and speedball-pitching eras. After he retires, he'll pretty much be a lock for the Reds Hall of Fame and even possibly, some experts say, Cooperstown
Despite his best efforts, the Reds already were faltering in 2022 when Votto's nagging injuries finally screamed for help, culminating in season-ending rotator cuff surgery on Aug. 19.  As 2022 wrapped, officials projected that the 39-year-old first baseman would heal in time for spring training and the 2023 season. Votto had rehabbed during the off-season and wasn't quite ready for the big stuff when players reported for duty in February, but in recent days, he's been taking the field more. Now, during the final week of spring training in Arizona, Votto has been getting closer to daily playing form, Reds manager David Bell told reporters.

"He's moving well. He's doing everything 100 percent," Bell said. "Looks good running. There's still plays – he's getting back into feeling like a baseball player in every way. Just to the eye, he looks great at the plate and moving well. He looks really strong."
Votto was vocal last season about wanting the Reds to contend more for the World Series or a pennant. Without the front office bucking up for talent, Votto may see an opportunity to leave for a shot at a ring.

"I have higher expectations to be part of other large Major League moments," Votto said before the 2022 season began. "That’s without question concerning to me. I’ve been in the same uniform my entire career. We haven’t done enough winning."

Votto recently indicated that aliens may help the Reds become a winning team once again, but as of press time, their assistance hasn't been confirmed.

Votto was born in Toronto and has a loyal fan base there. During his rehab, Votto frequently played in chess tournaments in the city, honing his skills at the Annex Chess Club. A trade to the Toronto Blue Jays would be a homecoming for the Canadian and likely would feel like a home game with all of the instant fans. 
But a spot on the Blue Jays could mean a designated hitter role for Votto – something he's not interested in – which may lower the chances of him asking to be traded from the Reds.

"I just do not want to DH. You know?" Votto said on a broadcast during the 2022 opening day game against the Atlanta Braves. "I want to play defense as long as I can. Some of my very favorite players of all time played defense throughout the rest of their career, and I think I can do that, but you have to stay in really good condition."

As of press time, Toronto has not indicated if they would be interested in a trade for Votto.

The 2023 season ahead

The Cincinnati Reds will kickstart the 2023 season with a home opener against NL Central opponent the Pittsburgh Pirates on March 30 at Great American Ball Park. The season comes with a twist – each MLB team will meet each other on the field at least once. In addition, all 30 franchises are scheduled to play opening day on March 30 – the first time every team will do so on the same date since 1968.

First pitch is scheduled for 4:10 p.m.
The Reds' opening day parade will step off at noon March 30 from Findlay Market. Former Cincinnati Reds pitchers Bronson Arroyo and Danny Graves will serve as grand marshals. Other former athletes participating will include Reds outfielder George Foster, Bengals kicker Jim Breech, Bengals tackle and offensive lineman Anthony Munoz, Bengals quarterback Ken Anderson and Olympic track star Mary Danner Wineberg. There also will be a wide array of other veterans from the Reds, Bengals, FC Cincinnati, University of Cincinnati and MMA fighters.

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