The numbers aren’t entirely clear as of yet (Buster Olney reports that it’s $38 million, while Jon Heyman says it’s approx. $37 million), but either way it appears that first baseman and reigning NL MVP Joey Votto is all but a Monday physical away from inking a 3-year deal with the Reds.
The length (and salary) are significant. Votto is a first time salary arbitration eligible player (has 3.027 years of Major League service time). In wrapping up Votto for 3 years, the Reds will avoid all of his salary arbitration eligible years. That would mean the next time the Reds have to deal with a Votto contract, he would be entering free agency.
It’s a wise move for the Reds. While certainly not ground breaking, wrapping up young talent through some or all of their salary arbitration years is a cornerstone of many low-to-medium revenue makers in MLB.
Votto’s deal also comes when the signing market has been exceptionally high. Here’s some numbers to chew on, mostly around salary arbitration players.
When it comes to first-time, 1B players entering salary arbitration, if your numbers come remotely close, the ghost of Ryan Howard looms large. Howard still holds the record award number in salary arbitration hearings at $10 million in Feb of 2008. At the time, the Phillies had never lost a salary arbitration hearing. The following year, with Howard entering his second year of salary arbitration, the Phillies offered $14 million while Howard was seeking $18 million. The solution was a 3-year, $54 million deal, that has an average annual value (AAV) of $18 million.
For Votto, here’s how AAV would work for Votto if the deal was for $37M or $38M:
- $37 million – AAV of $12.33 million
- $38 million – AAV of $12.66 million
To put this in perspective, while it’s an apples and oranges comparison (pitcher to position player), Tim Lincecum, as a NL Cy Young winner entering salary arbitration for the first time (was a Super 2 at 2.148 ML service time), reached a 2-year, $23 million deal, or an AAV of $11.5 million.
Another comp is Josh Johnson, who reached a 4-year, $39 million deal last year with the Marlins. Johnson, a first salary arb player who plays 1B, sees an AAV of $9.75 million.
Looking at other salary arb first baseman and what they’ve pulled in in their first year of salary arbitration… In 2008 Prince Fielder inks a 2-year, $18.025 million deal that has an AAV of $9,012,500. In 2004, in his first year of salary arbitration (3.000 years ML ST), Albert Pujols asks for $10.5 million while the Cardinals offer $7 million. The sides reach a 7-year, $100 million contract that had a $16 million option year for 2011 (AAV of $11.3 million due to $1.2 million of it deferred from 2020 to 2029 without interest – Source Cot’s Contracts).
And remember... The possibilty of other incentives could be within the contract for Votto. That won't likely surface until early this week.
Overall, the deal can be portrayed as a win for both sides. The Reds lock up Votto through salary arbitration, while Votto gets a salary with AAV higher than some (Fielder, Lincecum, etc). The Reds have signed Bronson Arroyo to a 3-year, $35 million deal as well as Jay Bruce to a 6 year, $51 million contract this off-season. The Reds still have Bill Bray, Johnny Cueto, and Edinson Volquez as salary arbitration eligible players.
OTHER SALARY ARBITRATION RESOURCES:
Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.
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