Joey Votto’s season is over, as the longtime Reds first baseman told reporters (including Bobby Nightengale of the Cincinnati Enquirer) that he will undergo surgery on Friday to fix a torn rotator cuff.
As Votto told reporters (including reps from Bally Sports), that his shoulder has actually been bothering him since 2015, though it has only become “painful to the point where it’s…difficult to lift, hurts to sleep” over the last few months. “The doctor informed me that with these sort of injuries at some point you hit a breaking point, and you’re not able to manage it quite as well,” Votto said, and that proverbial breaking point only occurred this season. The procedure has roughly a six-month rehab time, so Votto should be ready for around the start of the Reds’ Spring Training camp.
Votto’s 16th season will finish with 91 games played, as beyond this rotator cuff problem, he also missed over two weeks on the COVID-19 list in May. The veteran posted a .205/.319/.370 slash line and hit 11 home runs over 376 plate appearances — he hit well in his first few weeks after returning from the COVID list but otherwise, the 2022 season has been a struggle.
While the number of games is certainly a factor, Votto’s 92 wRC+ is the worst of his career, and it represents the second time in four seasons that Votto’s offensive production has fallen beneath the league-average 100 wRC+ threshold. Votto did hit pretty well in 2020, yet there were still whispers that his best days were behind him….before Votto exploded with another excellent season in 2021. The first baseman slugged 36 homers (matching the second-highest total of his career) last year while hitting .266/.375/.563 in 533 PA.
It’s safe to say that Votto’s increasingly problematic rotator cuff injury was the source of his 2022 dropoff, as the lesser version of his shoulder soreness didn’t stop from posting MVP-caliber numbers on multiple occasions since 2015. With the injury now finally addressed, it is possible that Votto might have one more big performance in store for 2023. That said, Votto will also be 39 years old next season, and even with a fixed rotator cuff, he might not be immune to aging curve that usually limits players outside of their prime years.
The return from surgery also adds another wrinkle to what might be Votto’s farewell season altogether. 2023 is the final guaranteed season of the 10-year, $225MM extension Votto signed back in April 2012, though Cincinnati has a $20MM club option (with a $7MM buyout) for 2024. If Votto did return to his 2021 form, that could be enough for the Reds to make the $13MM decision to bring back the longtime face of the franchise, even if the Reds have been more focused on cutting payroll in the last two seasons.
Votto’s own feelings will naturally also be a factor, as he has intimated in the past that he would retire if he was no longer getting enjoyment out of playing the game. It remains to be seen how Votto will approach this eventual decision, as he will surely weigh such factors as his health, how close the Reds might be to contending, and his 2023 performance as well as the personal satisfaction he still derives from baseball. Whenever he does decide to hang up the glove, Votto will surely get a lot of consideration from Hall Of Fame voters, and a ticket to Cooperstown could well be in Votto’s longer-term future.