Over the past few seasons, Joey Votto has built up a reputation as one of the National League's best hitters. This season, he's exploded for a .323/.423/.598 slash line with 37 home runs, carrying the Reds to the postseason for the first time in 15 years. He's a frontrunner for the NL MVP award, but according the Cincinnati Enquirer's John Fay, the Reds' superstar "doesn't know" if he's interested in signing a long-term deal.
The club has yet to approach Votto about an extension. And, while Votto may be uncertain for the time being about the prospect of a long-term deal, let's look at his situation a little more in-depth.
Votto will be arbitration eligible for the first time this offseason, and as Fay points out, an MVP trophy (or even a runner-up finish) certainly looks nice in arbitration hearings. Ryan Howard won his case and was awarded a $10MM salary following his MVP season, though he had a Rookie of the Year trophy to his name (Votto finished second in 2008) and gaudier HR and RBI totals. Fellow Canadian and 2006 AL MVP Justin Morneau had more similar numbers in his MVP season and signed for $4.5MM in his first year of arbitration, following that MVP effort.
The second time around, Howard inked a three-year deal worth $54MM rather than going through arbitration again. Morneau, who had a down year in 2007, avoided arbitration and signed for $7.4MM in his second year before erasing that deal and agreeing to a six-year, $80MM contract prior to the 2008 season. Votto could fit somewhere between the two MVP first basemen in terms of both years and dollars. As MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith pointed out in examining Votto's extension candidacy in late August, the next three years could cost the Reds in the neighborhood of $30MM one way or another.
Votto's tear has continued since then, however, and in his article, Fay suggests Votto will submit a $10MM figure in arbitration this offseason. If that ends up being the case, Votto's arbitration years could cost in the neighborhood of $35MM or more.
There's no way to accurately predict the value of a contract for Votto, but contracts of some of his peers suggest that signing for five years at $15MM-$16MM per season might be fair for both sides. That would all depend though, on Votto's decision between signing or going year-to-year and hitting free agency at age 30. If that's the route he chooses, he could be in line for a mammoth Mark Teixeira-type contract on the open market.