The pros and cons of the Reds bringing Joey Votto back in 2024

There are reasons for and against bringing Joey Votto back to Cincinnati next season.

Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto
Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto / Adam Hunger/GettyImages
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Joey Votto's future with the Cincinnati Reds is unknown. At the moment, the Reds maintain a $20-million club-option for the 2024 season that contains a $7-million buyout.

Most assume that the Cincinnati front office will decline the team-option and pay the buyout, which will in turn make Votto a free agent for the first time in his career.

The question then becomes, do the Reds attempt to re-sign Votto for the 2024 season at a lower cost. There are, arguably, just as many pluses as there are minuses. Let's look at the pros and cons to bringing Votto back next season.

Pro: Most Reds fans want to see Joey Votto retire in Cincinnati

Let's begin with the most obvious, shall we? Does anyone within the Cincinnati Reds fanbase want to see Joey Votto play for another team in 2024? While some fans will say it's time to move on, the overwhelming majority want to see Votto finish his career in Cincinnati.

Joe Montana looked weird wearing a Kansas City Chiefs jersey. No one has fond memories of Michael Jordan in a Washington Wizards uniform. And Earl Campbell wearing a fluer de lis on the side of his helmet in New Orleans was just plain wrong. The same holds true for Votto.

For 17 years, Joey Votto has worn the same jersey onto the baseball diamond. And while it's easy to dismiss that in today's game, there's something to be said for a player who starts and finishes his career with one franchise.

Joey Votto still has a Top 15 selling jersey according to It was, however, his first time on the list since 2012, which leads one to believe that a lot of Reds fans assumed this was the future Hall of Famer's last season in the Queen City.

Con: There aren't enough at-bats for Joey Votto next season

According to a recent report, Joey Votto does not want to be a part-time player. That's going to make his return next season very difficult. The Reds already have a very crowded infield.

Matt McLain, Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Spencer Steer, Jonathan India, Noelvi Marte, and Elly De La Cruz will all be jockeying for a spot on the infield dirt next season. The Reds may look to trade India during the offseason, and Steer could find himself playing left field more regularly in 2024.

But even if the Reds move on from India this winter and permanently shift Steer to the outfield grass, the infield already has the pieces in place. Encarnacion-Strand would occupy first base, Marte would lock down the hot corner, and the double-play tandem of De La Cruz and McLain would work up the middle.

But Votto could be the Reds designated hitter, right? Not so fast. With an outfield of Steer, TJ Friedl, Will Benson, and Jake Fraley, somebody is already occupying the DH spot every night. And again, this is without India as part of the roster; something that's not a forgone conclusion by any stretch of the imagination.

No matter which way you slice it, Joey Votto would be a part-time player if the Cincinnati Reds were to bring him back in 2024. Is that a role he's willing to take?

Pro: Joey Votto provides veteran leadership in the clubhouse

Joey Votto, for most of his career, has not been that vocal leader that most fans think of. Votto usually kept to himself, didn't make waves, stayed off of social media, and kept a low-profile. Quite frankly, most Reds fans had zero problem with Votto's very professional demeanor.

There were those, however, who were critical of a veteran player like Votto who showed very little outward leadership. The past few seasons, however, Votto has become more vocal and was observed tutoring the young players during games last season.

Outfielder Will Benson, in an interview on the Jim Day Podcast, spoke about Votto's presence while at Triple-A Louisville this past during a rehab assignment. Benson lauded praise on Votto and was exceedingly complimentary of the six-time All-Star.

To a man, the other 25 players in the clubhouse love Joey Votto. His manager, David Bell, has nothing but positive things to say about his 40-year-old first baseman as well. To say that Votto is well-liked in the clubhouse would be an understatement.

Would the Cincinnati Reds miss Joey Votto's presence in the clubhouse next season if the former NL MVP was allowed to walk out the door? Absolutely. Is it something the team, as a whole, would be able to overcome? They may not have a choice.

Con: Joey Votto doesn't fit the style of play of this Reds team

Father Time is undefeated. Joey Votto, who'll be 40 years old on Opening Day next season, is not the same player he was even two years ago, much less five years ago. Votto was never fleet of foot, and that wasn't necessarily a detriment five years ago. But this Reds team plays the game a different way.

One of the greatest attirbutes of last year's Reds team was speed. Elly De La Cruz, TJ Friedl, Stuart Fairchild, Will Benson, and Matt McLain were flying around the base paths last season. In total, the Reds had eight players with double-digit steals. Even Luke Maile stole two bags last season.

Votto appeared in 65 games last season and recorded zero stolen bases. Only one player on the Reds appeared in more games and failed to steal a base; Tyler Stephenson (142 games played).

Most fans, however, will forgive their catcher for not swiping a bag. Only one catcher, J.T. Realmuto, stole more than six bases last season.

But the Cincinnati Reds cannot go backwards. According to Baseball Savant, Joey Votto ranks in the in the bottom 12- percent of the league in sprint speed. Stephenson's sprint speed is in the 38th-percentile per Baseball Savant.

The point being, Joey Votto's lack of speed will clog up the base paths of an otherwise fast ball club. The Reds, no doubt, won games because of their team speed and aggressive base running in 2023. Neither of those qualities fit Joey Votto's style of play.

Pro: Joey Votto should be healthy following his 2022 surgery

If the Cincinnati Reds are basing their decision not to retain Joey Votto solely on the basis of the numbers he put up the past two seasons, they're not wrong in doing so. Votto himself called the past two years crummy.

However, Votto also said that he hasn't been healthy the past two seasons. That's a fact that's hard to ignore when you know that the Reds first baseman had surgery in August in 2022 and it took him several months into the 2023 season before he even returned to the field.

When Joey Votto got back onto the field last season, that, in and of itself, was a triumph. Many fans didn't think he'd return following such an invasive procedure to repair his rotator cuff and his biceps tendon.

So was the version of Votto that Reds fans saw in 2023 the "real" Votto? We can assume the answer is, no. But what Votto put forward last season may have had nothing to do with his injury and was just a product of being a 40-year-old ball player on the backside of his career.

If the Cincinnati Reds believe that Joey Votto was playing "hurt" or not at full capacity, it could be worth running it back one more time. Because if Votto signs elsewhere and proves that he's still got it, the Reds are going to be kicking themselves for not re-signing him.

Con: Joey Votto has no positional versatility

While hard to do, remove the idea that Joey Votto has barely hit above .200. Over the past two seasons, Votto is hitting .204/.317/.394 with a wRC+ of 95 according to FanGraphs. Those are not good numbers, but as was mentioned previously, he'd been playing hurt.

However, no matter how healthy Votto is, he's only able to play one position. Not only that, he's not very good at the one position he plays. Votto is a below-average first baseman at this stage of his career.

The past two seasons, Votto is worth -7 defensive runs saved (DRS) and -12 outs above average (OAA). There's just no way that Votto can occupy a spot other than the team's designated hitter.

But David Bell has never been one to operate with one player who exclusively plays DH. If Jonathan India were to return in 2024, Bell would have two players with virtually no defensive flexibility.

India is locked at second base, but may be ceding playing time to Matt McLain next season and see the lion;s share of his ABs as the team's DH.

So, there are pros to brining Joey Votto back in 2024, but most of those are tied to sentimentality and intangibles. When it comes to the cons, those seem to overwhelmingly point to on-field production. It won't be an easy decision, but it's one that Votto and the Reds will have to make very soon.