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Cincinnati Reds Buyout Votto’s Contract, Free Agent for First Time in Career

Joey Votto | Cincinnati Reds Media

For the first time since 2002, Joey Votto is no longer a member of the Cincinnati Reds. Although expected, this roster move has touched the hearts of fans near and far. 

Votto’s early start

When Votto was drafted in 2002 out of high school, the team was looking to return back to its days of winning in the 1970s and 1990s. At the time, not many people had an idea of what Votto’s time with the club would be like. 

In Votto’s Major League Baseball debut on Sept. 7, 2007, he launched his first career home run and went 3-5 at the plate. The late season call-up of Votto led to him becoming the starting first baseman in April 2008. 

In Votto’s first full season with the club, he finished second in National League Rookie of the Year voting. It was during this time that the Reds realized they got someone special. 

Votto’s early success peaked in 2010 when he won the National League Most Valuable Player award, the first for a Reds player since 1995 when Barry Larkin took home the hardware. The award also marked the third time a Canadian-born player won MVP.  

The award meant a lot to Votto, as he was dealing with depression and anxiety after his father’s passing. 

In 2012, Votto would sign an extension that would make him the Reds first baseman through the 2024 season. The last year on the contract gave the club an option to buyout. At the time, most were led to believe Votto would spend his entire career in a Reds uniform. 

Hopes for a championship

Throughout his time with the Reds, Votto has had his eyes set on a title. Although Votto has never truly been given this opportunity, he has remained grateful for his time in Cincinnati. 

In Votto’s 2010 MVP season, the club reached the playoffs for the first time since the 1995 Championship Series. The Reds took on the Phillies, getting swept and sent home. 

In 2012, the Reds made another run at it. This time, they would be tasked in taking on the Giants, who won the 2010 World Series. After taking a 2-0 series lead, Cincinnati would drop the next three games to San Francisco at home. This series was especially hard, as the Giants would go on to win the fall classic again that season. 

The Reds would make one more push at the playoffs in Votto’s prime years, as the team returned for the 2013 wild card round. The Reds fell to the division rival Pittsburgh Pirates in a do-or-die game in Pittsburgh. 

Votto would not see the playoffs again until the 2020 COVID-19 season. 

After six years of constant losing, the Reds started putting it back together in 2020, forcing their way back into the postseason. 

Cincinnati fell to the Atlanta Braves 2-0 in a heartbreaking loss. 

Although Votto was unable to deliver on Cincinnati’s sixth title, he kept the fanbase above water through all the good and bad. The Reds had not seen a winning record from 2014 through 2019. During this time, Votto remained the one constant thing the Reds had going for them. 

In those years of trial, Votto continued adding to his own resume, which is now the conversation regarding his Hall of Fame chances. 

Votto is a six-time All Star, a seven-time Tip O’Neill award winner, a gold glove award winner, two-time Lou Marsh award winner and an NL MVP.  Votto has also surpassed 350 career home runs, 2,100 hits and 1,100 RBIs while maintaining a career on-base percentage of .409 and a .294 career batting average. 

A softer side

The Cincinnati area and fans all around the globe have grown to adore Votto. 

In the 2022 season, Votto decided to finally join social media, allowing fans personal access into his introverted humor and lifestyle. As the year progressed, Votto began changing to a more vocal person, not shying away from his opinion. It was also during this season that the star first baseman had his season abruptly end to a torn bicep and rotator cuff. 

As Votto rehabbed to get back this past season, fans began wondering what his future in Cincinnati would look like. The team made serious strides, bringing up highly touted rookies who are now viewed as the future of this franchise. Through it all, Votto has remained loyal to the team that drafted him in 2002 and failed to put him in a consistent winning culture. 

Votto talked throughout the season about wanting to play at least one more full season while fully healthy. He emphasized more how much he wanted to close out this chapter in his life with the team that he started it all with, as did most of the fans. 

Tributes of 2023

Knowing the Reds were in control whether he stayed or not, this season was a brief tribute to Votto’s contributions to the club over the years. He mentored a young group of rookies and helped lead them to a winning season, the first since 2020, where the Reds were just a few games away from securing a playoff spot. 

In the final home series of the season, fans around Cincinnati packed out the stands to give gratitude to Votto and the career he had with the Reds. In the final game of the season, the entire crowd rose and gave Votto a standing ovation both before and after the game, not knowing if his time in Cincinnati was coming to a close. 

Free agency

On Nov. 4, the Reds announced on social media that the club would buyout the final year on Votto’s contract, making him a free agent for the first time in his career. The move was devastating but expected among the fans, with many wanting him to have a proper farewell tour to end his career. 

Now, Votto is on the market and has eyes from his hometown Toronto Blue Jays. The thought of Joey Votto suiting up for anyone besides the Reds just does not feel right, but if he does, it is only right for him to join the team in which he grew up. 

The Reds will miss Votto’s leadership, competitiveness, efforts in the community, funny nature and so much more. 

Adam Campbell

Sports Reporter

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