Joey Votto: Extension Candidate

Walt Jocketty knows a thing or two about extending young, MVP-caliber first basemen. The Reds GM signed Albert Pujols to his current seven-year $100MM deal in 2004, back when he was running the Cardinals. This winter, Jocketty will have to consider offering an extension to another productive young first baseman, one who has led the Reds to the top of the NL Central standings.

Joey Votto would be leading the NL in every triple crown category if it weren't for Pujols. The Reds first baseman, who homered twice and singled in the go-ahead run in yesterday's marathon win, is having himself an MVP-caliber season. Not only does he lead the league in batting average, he has higher on base and slugging percentages that any other NL player.

Votto had put together two-plus productive major league seasons heading into 2010 and he's now about to go to arbitration for the first time. I suggested Monday that Votto could reasonably ask for $7MM through arbitration next year, but what if the Reds decide to offer him an extension? How much would they have to offer the soon-to-be-27-year-old to keep him around long-term?

It depends, of course, on certain variables. The Reds could attempt to buy out any number of free agent years, may want to add an option year or two and could even include incentives or bonuses. It would be foolish to try to predict the details of a possible extension, but we can safely attempt to determine how much Votto can expect to earn for his three seasons of arbitration eligibility.

As this chart shows, Votto has produced like Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Justin Morneau, Ryan Howard, Prince Fielder and Mark Teixeira had at the same points in their respective careers. Those first basemen each made between $4.5-10MM for their first arbitration season and between $7.4-15MM for their second arbitration season. The comparisons are imperfect, but they gives us a sense of the kind of money Votto can make. 

Fielder and Teixeira made $15-20MM for their first two seasons of arbitration, so if the Reds valued Votto's first two arbitration seasons similarly and offered a proportionate raise for 2013, they'd be looking at a $30MM price tag for their first baseman's next three seasons. It wouldn't make sense for the Reds to offer an extension unless they thought they were getting a fair deal, so they may not make a proposal at all. But whether they extend Votto or not, his next three seasons could cost them about $30MM.

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