Four teams have expressed interest in Joey Votto this off-season, according to Joey Votto

Photo credit:© Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK
Cam Lewis
3 months ago
For the first time since being selected by the Cincinnati Reds in the second round of the 2002 MLB Draft, Joey Votto is without a contract.
The Reds announced in November that they declined Votto’s option, ending the biggest contract in team history and making the 40-year-old a free agent for the first time in his career. It wasn’t surprising that the Reds didn’t want to pay Votto $20 million next season, but the team coming out and saying that they wouldn’t be bringing him back for a victory lap season, like ones we’ve seen with Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera in recent year, was unexpected.
Votto was a guest on The Dan Patrick show back in October and said that he wanted to play for “at least one more year.” He also noted that his last two injury-riddled seasons with the Reds weren’t how he wanted to finish off his playing career, saying “It’s not the taste I want to leave in my mouth.”
Between 2022 and 2023, Votto appeared in 156 games and slashed a .204/.317/.394 line with 25 home runs and 79 RBIs, a considerable decline from the .266/.375/.563 line he had in a 2021 season that netted him some National League MVP votes.
Votto underwent season-ending surgery in August of 2022 to repair a torn left rotator cuff and he didn’t make his 2023 debut with the Reds until the latter part of June. He came flying out of the gates and posted a 1.007 OPS in his first couple of weeks back but cooled off after the All-Star break and wound up missing time in August and September with shoulder discomfort.
That’s obviously not the way to cap off what could very likely wind up being a Hall of Fame career, but the question now is whether there’s a team out there that’s interested in giving Votto another crack at a memorable sendoff.
According to former MLB general manager Jim Bowden, who responded to a mailbag question in The Athletic about whether teams had been showing interest in the former MVP this winter, the Toronto Blue Jays are the only team that he could see signing Votto.
“Votto is 40 and his decline is real. The Reds have moved on from him. I think his only shot is if the Blue Jays sign him to a minor-league contract with an invitation to spring training and give him a chance to make the team, which would allow him to finish his stellar career where he grew up, in Toronto. Otherwise, his future career as a hitting coach or broadcaster might arrive sooner than he wants.”
The Blue Jays signed Brandon Belt last winter to a one-year contract coming off of knee surgery and he was very productive for the team as their big left-handed bat in the middle of the lineup, but Votto is five years older than Belt and a 40-year-old staying healthy and productive all season is a bigger risk.
That said, Votto also wouldn’t cost the Blue Jays $9.3 million like Belt did. As Bowden suggested, they could bring him in on a minor-league contract and wait until after spring training to make a commitment with a big-league deal and a 40-man roster spot.
Toronto has tried Vladimir Guerrero Sr., Johan Santana, John Axford, and many, many others on minor-league contracts in the past. More often than not, these sorts of things don’t pan out, but the possibility of having one of the best Canadian players of all time suit up for the team makes the risk worthwhile.
At best, he’s a quality bench bat and grizzled veteran for the Blue Jays and the team sells a whole bunch more red Canada Day jerseys than usual. At worst, we wind up with some Grapefruit League photos of Joey Votto as a Blue Jay.
Now, of course, it takes two parties to sign a contract, and Bowden’s thought on Votto not having a market might not be accurate. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that three teams have expressed interest in the left-handed veteran, and Votto himself added that it’s actually four teams in the mix.
If there are four teams interested in Votto, surely somebody is going to offer the security of a Major League contract, though it’s certainly possible that he’d still take a minor-league deal somewhere if it presented a better situation.
The Blue Jays make sense for a variety of reasons and it wouldn’t be surprising if they were one of the four aforementioned teams who have expressed interest, but Votto to Toronto on a risk-free deal isn’t as much of a layup as Bowden suggested. There are only so many roster spots to go around and a contending team shouldn’t commit one to a feel-good story if there are better and safer options available.


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