Did the Reds screw up the team's chemistry after parting ways with Joey Votto?

Would the Reds benefit from having their former superstar in the clubhouse?
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Of all the things that have gone wrong for the 2024 Cincinnati Reds, the injury luck has to be the worst. Losing Matt McLain in spring training was a massive blow to the offense, and his absence is felt every day.

The same can be said for outfielder TJ Friedl, who hit .279 with 18 homers and 27 steals in 2023. He's played in just six games this year and has dealt with two separate broken bones, though it's been reported that he's progressing quicker than expected from the thumb fracture.

Is the Reds clubhouse void of leadership without Joey Votto?

One unfortunate side effect of constantly churning the roster to account for injuries is that the locker room never quite gets to gel. The consistent rotating cast of guys coming through the Reds clubhouse isn't a positive factor for team chemistry, and that can have a detrimental impact on the results.

We had this same discussion last year when Joey Votto was due to return from an extended IL stint thanks to shoulder surgery. Some Reds fans were concerned that Votto would disrupt the locker room chemistry after such a long absence.

Votto, however, was a leader in the clubhouse after his return. And although the Reds fell just shy of a playoff spot in 2023, it felt like the team was in a strong position heading into 2024.

The Reds let Votto walk in free agency this past winter, and you don't have to dig too deep to understand why. On the field, Votto hasn't been good since 2021.

Between 2022-2023, Votto hit a combined .204/.317/.394 and played in just 156 of a possible 324 games. When you combine that with the fact that the Reds looked to have a stacked infield this year, it was an understandable choice to part ways with Votto.

However, the Reds are currently in a bit of a worst case scenario. McLain is out until probably September, Noelvi Marte is serving a PED suspension, Christian Encarnacion-Strand is on the IL with a fractured wrist, and free agent signing Jeimer Candelario is hitting an underwhelming .222/.299/.419 and bordering on a career-high strikeout rate.

Did losing Joey Votto negatively affect the Reds' clubhouse chemistry?

Meanwhile, Votto inked a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays this offseason. He's yet to appear in any games and is working his way through an ankle injury, though he could appear in Toronto this summer.

It's tough to argue that the Reds would benefit from having Votto's bat in the lineup right now. Despite a struggling offense, Votto might not provide the spark this team needs. But would he be a positive force in the clubhouse and be a leader to some of the younger guys?

I think it's fair to say that he would, and that the Reds likely miss having that group chemistry that worked so well for them last year. The hope is that when the current group of guys return from their respective absences, something will click. Hopefully they do so in time for a playoff push later this summer.

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