Tuesday Rockpile: Joey Votto - Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Rockies

With apologies to Kelis and Rox Girl, this is the second in an unofficial Purple Row series entitled "My slugger brings all the fans to the yard, and his contract is better than yours" that started with Sunday's Rockpile.

For midmarket teams, the roadmap to success often involves developing their own superstars and keeping them in town.  We have seen the Rockies throw $214 million at Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki (3rd and 5th in the 2010 NL MVP voting) this offseason, sparking plenty of debate.  Another team in a comparable situation is the Cincinnati Reds, who signed Joey Votto signed to a three years, $39million contract yesterday.  Three years, $39million.  That is a lot of money, but after comparable if not lesser players in Colorado got double the money, it is pretty underwhelming overall.

The contract cannot even be called an extension, as it only bought out his arbitration years and added zero extra years of control.  In terms of finances, it projects to save Cincinnati some money as opposed to the arbitration route, but not much.

Joey Votto is an incredibly talented baseball player.  He has played in three full seasons in his career and ranks as the #9 hitter in fWAR over that span.  Come to think of it, he looks remarkably like a young Todd Helton.  He just beat Albert Pujols for a near unanimous NL MVP in 2010.  With 2010 NL MVP runner-up Albert Pujols potentially leaving St. Louis, the NL Central looks wide open in coming years for the reigning division champs, which aligns nicely with the talented young Cincy roster featuring Brandon Phillips, Jay Bruce, and Aroldis Chapman.  From a Cincinnati perspective, it sure would be nice to keep Votto around.

But it looks as though baseball fans in southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky will be more likely to see Votto go by way of Adrian Gonzalez (4th in 2010 MVP), who was the center of trade talks for a year before being dealt a year prior to free agency.  As it is, Reds fans are already bracing to trade the Canadian slugger after the 2012 season.  After his MVP season, Joey Votto is just going to be too expensive for a longterm extension in Cincinnati. 

That could have been the Rockies in 2013 with Carlos Gonzalez.  While Dave Cameron tried to pass off that Joey Votto's breakout year was fairly predictable, further development from Carlos Gonzalez would seem to be more of a sure bet than Votto was before this past season. Gonzalez owns a better minor league track record and peak season than Joey Votto before Votto's 2010 breakout season.

Dan O'Dowd may have watched Votto this season and learned a lesson the easy way.  Behold the comparison of two players after two years of service time after the jump:

Off-topic.

   PA fWAR rWAR wRAA
Joey Votto (2007-09)  1222   8.7   7.3   66.0
Carlos Gonzalez (2008-10)  1281   9.1   7.7   48.2

Carlos Gonzalez is almost exactly in the same spot as Votto was before 2010.  Same service time, same distance to free agency/arbitration, similar production.  Do you think Walt Jocketty wished he had offered 7 years and $80million to Votto last offseason?  You bet. 

With huge extensions to young players, the kneejerk collective opinion is that there is too much risk involved; but as Rox Girl has been pleading with all who will hear her, there is a very real risk associated with waiting too long on an extension.  The Reds waited too long, and now it is unlikely Votto will play in Ohio past 2012. 

Of course, such an extension is only possible if the player wants involved as well.  While Votto is saying all the right things now, he did not seem so gung-ho about staying in Cincinnati last month:

"When [Troy] Tulowitzki signed that 10-year contract [with the Rockies], I was blown away. I can't imagine seeing myself 10 years from now saying, 'I want to be here.' It's an overwhelming thing to ask a young person like myself and say, 'Here's a lot of money. Be happy with this over 10 years, deal with it.'...I don't know as far as beyond three years...I think it's a real unfair question to ask...It's really hard for me to think three years ahead, five years ahead, seven years ahead or 10 years ahead." - Joey Votto on December 4, 2010 

That's quite the difference from what we have heard from Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez, who forged forward in historic proportions to entrench themselves in this organization.

 

Links

Rockies sign deals with Jason Giambi, Matt Lindstrom | All Things Rockies — The Denver Post  Giambi could be utilized on the 25-man roster, and while I personally fear for the roster inflexibility he brings, there is no real risk in offering him a non-roster invite.  Some prognosticators (I can't remember where I read it) postulate that he is returning almost certainly to fuse himself into a coaching role.  As for Lindstrom, he was already under team control but avoided arbitration with a two year deal.  

Jose Veras chooses Pirates over Giants, Rockies, Twins, Marlins, and Rays | HardballTalk  The Rockies were wanting Veras on a minor league deal, but he chose the shortest route to the majors.

Observations from the 50-yard Line: Pack's Wilson heading to spring training  The Rockies' 4th round pick will be in Spring Training next month.  Wilson had an eye-opening season as North Carolina State's quarterback and is now committed to baseball...for now.

Gonzalez, Jimenez top local BBWAA awards | Inside the Colorado Rockies

Colorado Rockies sign deal for new bar at Coors Field | Denver Business Journal
The new tequila bar at Coors Field will be ready for 2011 and have a capacity of 106 people.

Baseball Prospectus will post their Top 20 Rockies prospects this morning.  We will have a post discussing that at ten.

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