Longtime Reds first baseman Joey Votto could begin the season on the injured list, as Votto himself told reporters including Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer. The Reds plan to defer to Votto’s judgment on whether or not he’s ready for Opening Day, according to Nightengale, with a decision possibly waiting until Opening Day rosters are due Thursday morning.
Votto, 39, is coming off the worst season of his career, where he slashed just .205/.319/.370 in 91 games before his season ended with surgery to repair his rotator cuff and bicep in August. Still, the future Hall of Famer is confident he can return to form in 2023 with those injuries behind him.
“I’ve done really well with my offensive work,” Votto told reporters. “I mean this, seriously, I think I’m going to play well. I think I’m going to perform well offensively. If not, I’m going to retire. End of story.”
That Votto, who is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract and will celebrate his 40th birthday before season’s end, would consider retirement at this stage of his career is no surprise, but it’s worth noting that his performance in 2023 will seemingly play a major role as he contemplates continuing his career. Should Votto decide to continue playing beyond 2023, the Reds hold a $20MM club option for the 2024 season with a $7MM buyout.
Regardless of Votto dons a Reds uniform for the seventeenth straight season on Opening Day or later on in the season, the Reds are sure to count on a return to form from their former MVP and six time All Star if they’re to have any hope of competing in 2023 coming off a 100 loss season in 2022. Despite his struggles in 2022, one needs to only look back to the 2021 season for proof of Votto’s impact when healthy and effective: even in his age-37 season, Votto slashed .266/.375/.563 with 36 home runs, good for a wRC+ of 139 en route to earning MVP votes for the first time since 2017, when he finished just two points behind winner Giancarlo Stanton in MVP balloting.
Votto went on to note that he wasn’t planning on rushing himself in order to be ready in time for Opening Day, noting that it’s his “responsibility” to be fully ready for the season before joining the team and returning to the lineup on a daily basis. Should Votto miss time, lefty infielder Jason Vosler seems poised to make the team in his stead, with Vosler, Wil Myers, and Tyler Stephenson all likely to contribute to the first base and DH mix while Votto is on the shelf.