Votto, 26, finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting in 2008 and followed with an even better performance in his second full season. Unfortunately, issues related to the passing of Votto's father affected him early in '09.
Votto will be eligible for arbitration for the first time after this season. The Reds signed him for $550K for 2010, throwing several extra tens of thousands his way in the name of goodwill. Let's consider a few possible comparables for Votto:
- Adam Lind recently signed a four-year, $18MM deal with the Blue Jays with three club options. He gave up his three arbitration years for $15MM. The option years cover his first three years of free agent eligibility and are in the $7-8MM range. At this stage in their careers Votto has the batting average advantage, home runs are about even, and Lind wins in RBIs and runs. Votto's other advantages: a strong rookie season and the ability to play a respectable first base. Lind has split his time between left field and DH.
- Kevin Youkilis signed a four-year, $41.125MM deal in January of '09. The deal bought out two remaining arbitration years and two free agent seasons, with a club option on a third. The difference is that Youkilis was less accomplished in every way when he reached arbitration for the first time, and the Red Sox didn't lock him up until a year later.
- Mark Reynolds was signed with 1689 plate appearances across roughly 2.8 seasons whereas Votto will have roughly 1870 across 3.2 seasons. Plus Reynolds was signed a year prior to arbitration-eligibility. Reynolds' three arbitration years went for $23.5MM, assuming the D'Backs pick up his 2013 option.
- Prince Fielder gave up his first two arbitration years for $18MM. This is another tough comp because with three years service time, Fielder outpaced where I project Votto to be in all categories except batting average. Plus, Scott Boras drove a hard bargain and didn't give up Fielder's third arb year or any free agent years.
- Ryan Zimmerman stacks up OK, although he had a .282 average and 58 home runs at the time of his deal against a projected .308 and 83 for Votto. He gave up the same five-year slice of his career the Reds might crave for Votto, at a price of $45MM.
- I think a five-year deal in the $50MM range would make sense for the Reds and Votto. He'd give up his three arbitration years for roughly $22MM, plus a couple of free agent years for $14MM each. Of course, a lot depends on Votto's 2010 season. Keeping CHONE's rates but upping the at-bats to 575, Votto is projected for something like a .303 average, 29 home runs, 99 RBIs, and 85 runs.