By Joey Votto’s lofty standards, batting .284/.417/.419 counts as a down year, and the Reds first baseman tells MLB.com’s Mark Sheldon that he is aiming for a return to form in 2019. Votto plans to refocus on his hitting during his offseason preparations, while also putting a greater emphasis on conditioning. “It’s not like I dogged it or anything, but there are levels to it,” Votto said. “If I was 99 percent ready, to be at your very best you need to be at 99.9 percent. I would never have once come into Spring Training and a Major League season without feeling like I’m ready. There are really extremes. I do feel like that’s something I fell short on.” While Votto still led the league in his OBP, his power dropoff was pronounced, as he posted the lowest full-season slugging percentage, isolated power, and home run numbers of his career. Votto has been a remarkably productive and consistent player over his career, though since he did just turn 35 in September, so some manner of decline wouldn’t be a surprise going forward, assuming Votto doesn’t get things figured out this winter.
More from around the NL Central…
- The Reds have some extra payroll to spend and they’ve been linked to several available pitchers this winter, though president of baseball operations Dick Williams threw a bit of cold water on the many rumors swirling around this team thus far in the offseason. Speaking to John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer and other reporters at the Redsfest fan event, Williams said that “the reports as a whole I’ve been surprised by how inaccurate they’ve been. They’ve taken us by surprise because they were so off base. I’m not going to comment on which ones they were. I’ll just caution that in general that those statements on a guy we’re in on or not in on….I just don’t know where that comes from.” Free agents and trade targets ranging from Dallas Keuchel, J.A. Happ, Patrick Corbin, Sonny Gray, and (before he was dealt to the Yankees) James Paxton have all reportedly drawn some interest from Cincinnati.
- Pirates right-hander Ivan Nova has changed agents and is now being represented by the Wasserman agency, The Athletic’s Robert Murray tweets. Nova is entering the last season of a three-year, $26MM free agent deal he signed in the 2016-17 offseason, and the righty has been solid over the first two-thirds of that contract, posting a 4.16 ERA, 6.3 K/9, and 3.45 K/BB rate over 348 innings for the Bucs. Similar numbers in 2019 would put Nova in line for another multi-year deal, though he will be 33 years old by Opening Day 2020.
- The Brewers’ ill-fated midseason acquisition of Jonathan Schoop was summed up by GM David Stearns “as a bad deal and that’s on me,” as Stearns said during a phone call with reporters (including Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) on Friday. Stearns surrendered some notable talent to the Orioles in order to land Schoop, who hit just .202/.246/.331 with four home runs over 134 PA as a Brewer, plus an 0-for-8 showing in the postseason. Between this poor performance and Schoop’s projected $10.1MM salary in 2019 through the arbitration process, the Brewers chose to non-tender the second baseman on Friday. Milwaukee did reach agreements with infielders Tyler Saladino and Hernan Perez, each of whom Stearns mentions as possible options for second base, though the team will no doubt explore external options via trades and free agency in the coming weeks. Travis Shaw played some second base down the stretch once the Brewers acquired Mike Moustakas, and while Stearns noted that Shaw’s versatility “is a nice asset to have” in regards to the team’s offseason options, reinstalling Shaw as the everyday third baseman is the team’s “default scenario.”