A Hot Stove Blockbuster that Makes Too Much Sense to Ever Happen

by M.C. Antil on November 14, 2011

It’s not often that swapping an MVP player just over a year removed from winning his award makes good baseball sense, but every once in a blue moon it does.  In fact, the time may indeed be ripe for the Cincinnati Reds to trade their best player, Joey Votto, to get not only max value for him, but in the end, a better shot at a World Series championship.

Votto, 28, who is in the second year of a three-year $38 million contract, not only stands to make a huge payday following the 2013 season when he becomes a free agent, he’s blocking the path to the big leagues of the best young hitter in the Reds’ system, a largely immobile slugger named Yonder Alonso, whose defensive shortcomings will limit him to first base in the NL.

What’s more, if the small-market Reds determine they’ll be unable to sign Votto to a manageable long-term deal, trading him now would give his new team two full seasons of Votto, years during which his production promises to be at its very peak. 

Such a move would give the Reds the absolute highest value possible for their star, while, obviously, clearing a path for Alonzo.

But who has that kind of talent to trade, and which team would be willing to give Cincinnati the kind of value they’d need to swap a reigning MVP, a mere year removed from taking home his hardware?

How about baseball’s newest emerging power, the Toronto Blue Jays?

Currently the Jays, under GM Alex Anthopoulos, have become one of the deepest, best-run organizations in baseball, not to mention one of the finest bargain hunters on the planet (as evidenced by Anthopouos’ recent dimes-for-dollars deals that netted him a couple of underachieving (and ridiculously undervalued) potential superstars, Yunel Escobar and Colby Rasmus). 

What the Jays need now is not only some experience at the big league level, but a player who will serve as a full-fledged local hero; a young star who can get the locals as excited as they were in the early 90’s when Toronto was winning back-to-back World Series championships and playing in front of the league’s biggest houses.

So who do the Jays give the Reds for Votto? 

How about Jose Bautista?

Before you laugh, consider:  Bautista, still only 31, has hit more home runs than any player in Major League Baseball since September, 2009.  That’s right.  More than any hitter in either league for the past 2+ season.  What’s more, over the past two seasons he has averaged 114 RBI.

He is also locked up through 2015, with a team option for 2016 valued at roughly $14 million.  In other words, virtually the exact same salary per year as the Reds are committed to paying Votto.

Plus, Bautista is as defensively flexible as any slugger in the big leagues, capable of playing not only a good first and third base, but left and right field on highly proficient level.

So not only would the Reds be adding two big bats where they now have one, they’d be doing it for roughly the same money, while gaining a large measure of both roster flexibilty and long-term financial stability.

And from Toronto’s perspective, while they’d be giving up two years worth of financial stability, do you know what they’d be gaining?  I mean beside the fact that they’d be adding one of the five best hitters in all of baseball for at least two years?  I’ll give you a hint. 

Do you know where Votto was born? 


That’s right.  Joey Votto is, by the nature of his birth, custom-made for icon status in Toronto, where he and budding Canadian star Brett Lawrie would promise to give the Blue Jays at least two season’s worth of the single most exciting and talked about pair of Canadian sluggers the game has ever known — playing opposite one another on the Jays’ infield.

And while such a deal makes so much sense that no matter now many times I revisit it I find only minor inequities in its makeup, I’m equally certain it will never happen. 

Baseball is simply no longer a landscape littered with riverboat gamblers passing themselves off as GM’s, if for no other reason than the dollars are just too big these days to take those kind of chances. 

What’s more, fans in Cincinnati are some of the most old-school in the game and embrace their hometown Reds — particularly those that have been drafted and  home-grown — like few others in the country.  As much as such a trade might benefit their beloved Reds in the long run, unless he won the very first year, should GM Walt Jocketty ever trade Votto he’d be more likely to be run out of town on a rail than get a parade thrown in his honor.

And on top of it all, sad to say, but star-quality, player-for-player deals these days seem to be something of an endangered species. 

Today you’re much more likely to see a three-for-one deadline deal involving prospects and an expiring contract than a good old-fashioned value-for-value mega-deal pulled off around amid the winter chill.

So there you have it.  A deal that should happen.  A deal that would clearly help both teams.  And, alas, a deal that has a snowball’s chance in hell of ever happening. 

Oh well, I guess I can always throw another log on the hot stove, sit back, and just dream of spring.





Anonymous November 24, 2011 at 2:53 pm

votto is going to cost 7 years 20+ in 2 years.. if you are going to resign him, which you have to because u just traded jose bautista for him, you might as well just sign prince fielder now and not have to give joey bats up.

sorry, you can use circular logic anc all you want, but quantity of words doesnt consititute accuracy of an argument. You’re just plain wrong.. and the fact that you seeked out richard griffins approval just confirms that.

Anonymous November 24, 2011 at 2:51 pm

what a stupid post, going on bill james projections, what did bill james predict for bautista in 2010 or 2011 u tool.

Andre November 19, 2011 at 8:07 pm

Well this deal WILL never happen. Alex Anthopoulous knows that he can’t replace a player of his calibre. He fields two positions with an above average ability and is also the unquestioned leader of the club. The only reason the Jays would ever get Votto is to add more protection for Bautista.

Anonymous November 19, 2011 at 4:25 pm

OK, Andy.  Let’s talk OPS.  Prior to the All Star break in ’11, Bautista’s OPS was 1.170.  Post All Star break it was .896, and lower than that if you factor in the final four months of the season.  A lot of people in baseball feel his remarkable run has already started to ebb. 
Of course you covet Votto.  And for good reason.  He’s incredible. That’s why he was NL MVP in 2010. 
You don’t get a guy like Votto and all the upside he represents without giving up something.  That’s why I proposed a guy who many feel might represent the very top of his market value.  Cincinnati, in other words, isn’t going to give up a potential Hall of Famer without getting something back.  And they don’t want guys like Lind and Drabek.  Walt Jocketty’s no idiot.
What’s more, are you sure that Bautista’s going to out-perform Votto over the next two years?  Or that Bautista’s second half is just a fluky, down four-month period? I don’t think anyone is baseball would take that bet. 

Andy Mc November 19, 2011 at 4:30 am

What is this 1982? Using RBI and AVG to qualify Bautista’s success? What a joke. He led the league in OPS. Pitchers began pitching around him, and instead of chasing bad pitches, he took walks. He wasn’t hitting a HR every game, but he wasn’t making outs either. His 2011 was better than his 2010, and trading him, and his ridiculously cheap contract, would take much more than two years of Votto, who I covet immensely. 

Andre November 18, 2011 at 1:40 am

Why the fuck would A.A even dream of ever doing that. If you said Lind and Drabek, then yeah, but Joey Votto for Joey Bats? Are you smoking some mind-altering substance(s)? Name one category that he is better in that Bautista is. This would make absolutely no sense for the Jays. Dream on and stop smoking.

Anonymous November 18, 2011 at 3:15 am

It’s easy to believe that Bautista has suddenly become the hitter he’d been all of 2010 and the first two months of 2011.  But in the final four months of 2011 he averaged .272 with under 6 HR and 17 RBI a month.  Over a full season that would amount to a .272 avg, with 35 HR and 98 RBI.  A lot of people in baseball feel that more reflective of who he is as a hitter. 

Good, but not MVP worthy.  And Votto, who’s already won an MVP and who is still only 27 years old represents much greater upside over the next two years than Bautista.

Bill November 17, 2011 at 9:31 pm

You had me going right up til you mentioned Bautista…not a chance the Jays trade him for Votto.

It would be a package deal with the likes of Adam Lind, Marcus Thames, Escobar/Hechavarria and a couple of the plethora of young arms the Jays have accumulated. Is that what the Reds want? I’m not sure, but that’s the sort of deal I see if Votto gets dealt.

Guest November 17, 2011 at 7:20 pm

Why would the Jays ever consider this deal? Votto being Canadian does not make up for the fact that Bautista (right now) is a better hitter, better defensively and controlled by the Jays for more years than Votto. Terrible deal.

M.C. Antil November 17, 2011 at 12:36 pm

That, of course, depends upon whether or not year actually believe that Bautista’s numbers are real and sustainable, which is far from a foregone conclusion in baseball circles.

What’s more, we may not have seen the best from Votto yet, despite the fact he’s already got an MVP award in his back pocket. For instance, look at his OBP these past two years. Remarkable.

The Canadian thing is important, yes. But not nearly as important as the incredible upside that Votto represents, despite the fewer years of team control.

Anonymous November 18, 2011 at 3:31 am

I’m not making these projected numbers up.  I’m borrowing them from “experts” like Bill James and RotoChamp, a fantasy website,

For 2012, James predicts that Votto will hit .310 with 31 HR and 103 RBI.  He products Bautista will hit .262 with 38 HR and 103 RBI.

RotoChamp predicts that Votto will hit .313 with 31 HR and 111 RBI.  Bautista will hit .276 with 41 HR and 95 RBI. 

What is not a projection is their relative ages.  Votto is four years younger than the 31-year old Bautista, and the likeliness that his career year is still ahead of him still exists.  While it’s much more likely that we’ve seen the best Bautista has to offer and that going foward he’ll be something less than the player he was in 2010 and the first two months of 2011.

That said, I appreciate your thoughts and insight, and if you’re indeed a Jays fan, I hope for your sake I’m wrong.

But like I said, thanks for the comment.

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