The Blue Jays opened “serious discussions” with the Reds last summer about a possible deal to add star first baseman Joey Votto, according to Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star. But those talks “never gained momentum,” per the report.
Instead, Toronto shifted its attention to adding Troy Tulowitzki and David Price in a pair of blockbusters that helped push the club into the post-season. While the dialogue with the Reds seemingly did not get very far down the line, Griffin says that the expectation was that Cincinnati would hold onto some of the large financial commitments to Votto, who is owed $179MM after the end of the 2016 season. (Ultimately, the Blue Jays took on Tulowitzki’s own lengthy deal, but sent Jose Reyes back to the Rockies to help offset the cost.)
Of course, it must be emphasized that those moves — as well as the chatter with Cincinnati — all took place under former general manager Alex Anthopoulos. He left over the offseason after the team hired Mark Shapiro as club president, with Shapiro ultimately bringing in Ross Atkins to step into the GM role.
It’s not clear whether or not the new front office leadership would share the interest of its predecessors in adding Votto. A native of Ontario, Votto would surely be desirable to any organization, as he continues to put up stellar offensive numbers (.309/.433/.522 with 20 home runs thus far in 2016). But the monster contract is another matter, especially for a player who will soon turn 33 years of age.
We’ve yet to hear of any current interest in such a maneuver from the Shapiro/Atkins front office group, so for now it’s all hypothetical, but Griffin goes on to argue that Votto still makes sense as a target for the Jays. It seems likely that Votto will clear waivers, and perhaps he’d be amenable to waiving his no-trade clause for a chance to return to his native land. In the near-term, he’d represent a major boost to a team that has seen its best left-handed hitters fade of late, and then he’d step into the void left when Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Bautista reach the open market after the season.
There’s certainly some facial appeal to the suggestion, but it bears noting that there are plenty of hurdles even if Toronto were to pursue Votto. Among other things, the Reds would presumably want to minimize their ongoing salary obligations while also reaping a nice package of young talent to part with their best player.