GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) — Joey Votto had one of his best seasons — good enough for second in the National League MVP voting — but Cincinnati lost more than 90 games yet again. The first baseman is yearning for the Reds to get back to a level when he’s playing for more than acclaim.
Votto and the rest of the Reds position players reported ahead of their first full-squad workout Monday. He’s got six years left on a $251.5 million, 12-year deal agreed to in 2012, when Cincinnati was in the midst of a resurgence. He envisioned a run of playoff-caliber seasons in Cincinnati when he committed long-term.
The Reds made three playoff appearances between 2010-13 and won a pair of NL Central titles. After failing to get past the first round of the playoffs, they fired manager Dusty Baker, traded away the rest of their stars and started a long, painful rebuild that’s not close to finished.
Votto is the last remaining link, still playing at a high level at age 34. He finished two points behind Giancarlo Stanton in the MVP voting after batting .320 with 36 homers, 100 RBIs and 134 walks in 162 games. Votto won the award in 2010.
Despite his enormous contributions, the Reds finished last in the NL Central again, losing more than 90 games for the third straight season. They’re looking at another season relying on young players to emerge and start a turnaround.
“It’s been on my mind that we’re starting to get to the point where people are tired of this stretch of ball,” Votto said. “I think something has to start changing and going in a different direction. I’m going to do my part to aid that change.”
When Votto signed what was then the longest guaranteed deal in major league history, there were questions about whether he could maintain excellence into his 30s. He’s done it while the team traded away the rest of its stars, stockpiling prospects that have yet to produce at the major league level.
“We definitely have to get better collectively,” Votto said. “Guys need to get better, guys need to grow, guys need to come out of nowhere. We need lots of help all the way around. Hopefully, that happens sooner than later. I think there is potentially a light at the end of the tunnel.”
Votto will get paid $25 million each of the next six seasons. There’s also a club option for 2024 at $20 million with a $7 million buyout, so the Reds owe him $157 million on the remainder of his deal. They’ve declined to spend money in free agency to make the roster around him more competitive. Shortstop Zack Cozart was allowed to leave as a free agent after his All-Star season.
Votto has never complained about the front office’s decisions or the slow pace of the rebuilding movement.
“As far as making a signing during the offseason, I don’t feel any sort of way about that,” Votto said. “Frankly, I don’t think I’d ever feel that sort of way about that because it’s not my place.”
Votto became the first Reds player to start all 162 games in a non-strike year since Pete Rose in 1975. He played in all but 38 1/3 of Cincinnati’s innings. After the season, he spent a lot of time relaxing, saying he “felt like I needed it.”
“I tried to get fatter and I succeeded at that apparently,” Votto said after taking his physical. “We did all the tests and I’m fatter.”