Why 2023 should be Joey Votto’s last season with the Cincinnati Reds

Injured Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) talks with team owner Bob Castellini
Injured Cincinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto (19) talks with team owner Bob Castellini / Sam Greene/The Enquirer / USA TODAY

Since 2007, Joey Votto has played first base for the Cincinnati Reds. For most of that time, he has been the face of the franchise. Being the most consistent player in the lineup year after year, Votto has proven to be excellent value for the ball club during his 16 seasons in the big leagues.

However, we're almost a month into the 2023 season, and there has still been no sign of Joey Votto. Starting the season on a rehab assignment in Triple-A Louisville, Votto was relieved of his assignment last week.

It was reported that Votto would continue to work out with the Reds pregame through their homestand. With the Reds returning from their weekend trip to Pittsburgh, it is unsure what's next for the former NL MVP.

Why 2023 should be Joey Votto’s last season with the Cincinnati Reds.

Joey Votto has been a staple of Cincinnati Reds baseball throughout the years. With this season being the final guaranteed year of his contract, the Reds and Votto have a major decision to make for 2024. The ballclub has a 20 million dollar club-option attached for next season. Now the question is, should it be picked up?

Votto's decline has been steady over the last few seasons. During his career, Votto has a career slash line of .297/.412/.513 with a 146 wRC+. He also has an 18.6-percent strikeout-rate along with a 15.7-percent walk-rate according to FanGraphs.

From 2018-2022, Votto’s production began to decline. His numbers during that time look like this: .256/.371/.444 slash line, 116 wRC+ with a slightly higher strikeout-rate at 20.8-percent and a lower walk-rate than his career average at 14.5-percent. Although that type of production over five years is respectable, they are a bit skewed for Votto.

From July through September of 2021, Votto caught fire. Hitting .273/.402/.629 with a 159 wRC+ while slugging 26 home runs. If you take that random explosive production rate out, his numbers take a pretty significant dip.

On top of Joey Votto’s recent decline, the Cincinnati Reds are moving into a position where young players will be taking over the big league roster sooner rather than later. With players down I-71 in Louisville like Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Elly De La Cruz, and Matt McLain, there will be plenty of major league debuts soon. 

While the long-term plan for all these prospects has yet to be revealed publicly, you would have to imagine there has to be some sort of shuffling of positions where players are going to play in the future. 

Joey Votto has been one of the best hitters of his generation. Unfortunately, no matter who you are, Father Time has a way of catching up to you, even if you're a six-time All-Star. If the team is moving in a different direction, and a new era of the franchise, 2023 has to be Votto’s final year in Cincinnati Reds uniform.

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