Reds Broadcaster Marty Brennaman Went OFF About Joey Votto’s Contract
If I were to make a list right now of the most underappreciated players in baseball, without really crunching the numbers and going off the top of my head really quick, I would have to think that Joey Votto would rank somewhere at the very top of that list, if not first.
I wrote about this at the end of the regular season, but does anyone know what Votto did in the second half of the 2016 season? He played in 72 of the Reds’ 73 games, and he hit .408 with a 1.158 OPS; both marks led the majors. Was anybody talking about that? Hitting over .400 for half a season? If he had done that in the first half, instead of the second half, then that would’ve been the talk of the league. Fire up the “Could we see another .400 hitter?” dialogue for months. Instead, I honestly didn’t see one mention of it anywhere, and I watch, listen to and read a lot of baseball material, because I’m a fucking loser.
That being said, I’d like to tackle this soundbite from Marty Brennaman by saying, all due respect to him, as he is a legend in the game, but this just comes off as the prototypical old man yelling at a cloud scenario. And I know that some people have interpreted this as Brennaman ripping Votto, but I didn’t take it that way. I think it was more of a shot at the Reds’ ownership for making the 10-year, $225 million investment in Votto back in 2012. Even that — the idea that the money that the Reds spent on Votto was a gross overpay — I can’t agree with that at all.
Votto is the player that you build around in Cincinnati. Clearly, he’s not hindering the performance of the team. He’s holding up his end of the bargain and then some. Brennaman is complaining that Votto is set to be paid $22 million in 2017, and then $25 million from 2018 through 2023. Do you know what he’s actually worth? According to FanGraphs, Votto’s production was worth $39.8 million in 2016. The year before that? $59.8 million. Don’t complain to me about Votto’s annual salary figures when the production that he’s putting out would classify him as a steal.
The problem with the Reds isn’t Votto; it’s that they’ve failed to build around Votto. Their bullpen in 2016 was horrendous, ranking second to last in the majors in ERA (5.09), tied for dead last in WHIP (1.49), and they gave up 103 home runs, which was 21 more home runs than the second worst bullpen in that category. Their starting pitchers also gave up the most homers in the majors, ranked 25th in ERA (4.79), and in WHIP (1.42). Even with Votto in the lineup, the Reds were still 23rd in the majors in OPS (.724), albeit being somewhat middle of the pack (18th, 716) in runs scored.
But if you want to talk about the most important ranking for the Reds, it’s where they ranked in payroll in 2016 — 22nd, just below $90 million. Could the Reds become a contender if they were able to dump Votto’s contract and reallocate those funds elsewhere? It definitely would not be a one-year turnaround if they were able to dump the whole contract on another team, but yes, it’s possible to contend with a payroll of $90 million or less, if spent correctly. I think that’s Brennaman’s point, which he did not convey very well.
However, just because it’s possible does not mean that it’s likely, because it’s not. If you look at the teams in 2016 that had a payroll equal to or below the Reds — the Rays, Braves, Brewers, Indians, Marlins, Phillies, A’s, and Dbacks — how many of them were contenders? One. Two, if you want to count the Marlins — they were right in the thick of the Wild Card race prior to Giancarlo Stanton’s injury — but the one true contender of that group would be the American League champion Indians. That’s it.
So, while I’m assuming that Brennaman’s plan to fix the Reds is to dump Votto’s contract and spend that money more wisely, it’s not that simple. Spending more wisely is certainly a step in the right direction, but they’d have to increase payroll in general. And if you’re going to increase payroll, then it’d also be wise to just keep Votto, your franchise player, and build around him. That’s how you make the Reds a winner. Easier said than done.