Let us play franchise owners for a moment, you and I. Let us say you have two very good or great players (depending on whom you ask).
The one player (cough, cough Votto) plays a position that is saturated with good talent and long ball hitters. The other plays a middle infield position yet hits like an outfielder.
You are in a small market (let’s say the Yankees are Wal-Mart and you are Food City). With your payroll currently around $80+MM you don’t have a lot of room to expand the horizons.
Your infielder is arguably the best in the National League, perhaps all of baseball. You don’t have a truly bona fide backup in your farm system who could make an immediate impact.
Your first baseman is a former MVP who has the same agent (Dan Lozano) who represents Albert Pujols, late of the second biggest contract in MLB history. You have at least one, maybe two players you feel confidently that could contribute fairly soon.
The one contract will expire after this year, the other next year. You only have money enough to make an attractive deal to one. What to do?
Okay, let’s quit playing and talk now. Joey Votto is the better hitter for sure, and he knows it. His agent is going to be seeking every dime he can get, as evidenced by the Pujols covenant.
He is also the more easily replaced of the two. There is not money enough in the coffers to finance both incomes.
Brandon Phillips will not be easily replaced. He now makes about $11MM and change. Dan Uggla makes approximately $13MM and ex-king of the hill Chase Utley brings in upwards of $15MM. There is a ceiling!
The money it will take to maintain Votto is astronomical. The first basemen of his caliber and above are making late-night TV hosting money. Pujols is knocking down $25MM per year for one decade. Prince Fielder signed with the Detroit Tigers for $23.8MM per annum for nine years.
Statistical comparisons with the three slugging first basemen shows Votto to be the meat in the sandwich. So, he realistically could be looking for $24-25MM. That is serious money to be talking about a man in his fifth full MLB season.
Votto stands to make $17MM in 2013 and if the Reds sign him to a seven year deal it could well cost them $187+MM. That is including the $23.5MM the Reds owe him for 2012 and 2013. That assessment was taken from MLB Trade Rumors.
Phillips is basically playing for donuts in comparison. We are talking Jimmy Fallon money to Conan O’Brien.
If the Reds wait to barter with Votto in his FA year (2013) it will probably be too late.
You do what you want, Mr. Franchise Owner, but I will sign Phillips and keep him smiling, and try to make a deal with another team for Votto. He is a Canadian, perhaps the Reds could get him for Jose Bautista? That deal was echoing through the pipes last summer.
What would you do?