Reds reward MVP Votto with three-year deal

Reds reward MVP Votto with three-year deal

CINCINNATI -- The Reds formalized a three-year, $38 million contract with first baseman and National League Most Valuable Player Joey Votto, the club announced Monday.

The contract, which avoids arbitration, covers all three of Votto's arbitration years and still allows him to reach free agency after the 2013 season, when he would be eligible for the first time.

Votto, 27, was second in the NL with a .324 average and was third in both home runs, with 37, and RBIs, with 113 -- all career highs. He led the league in on-base and slugging percentages with a 1.024 OPS. He was also tied for fourth with 106 runs scored, was sixth with 177 hits and fifth with 91 walks.

The Reds still have three players eligible for arbitration in pitchers Edinson Volquez, Johnny Cueto and Bill Bray. Teams are scheduled to exchange figures with their arbitration-eligible players on Tuesday.

While the Reds have maintained a relatively low profile in adding outside players this winter, they have been making major expenditures to retain their own players. In December, pitcher Bronson Arroyo was given a three-year contract worth $35 million and arbitration-eligible right fielder Jay Bruce signed a six-year, $51 million contract.

Bruce and his agent had maintained they wanted to secure a long-term contract and took less money overall for the security of staying. The Reds were also early in expressing their desire to give Votto a multiyear deal -- but in December, he seemed apprehensive to signing an extremely long contract.

"I don't know, as far as beyond three years," Votto said on Dec. 4, perhaps foreshadowing the deal he wound up getting. "I think it's a real unfair question to ask. This is not me saying I don't want to be here. But last year was a difficult year for me. This year was a better year for me. It's really hard for me to think three years ahead, five years ahead, seven years ahead or 10 years ahead.

"When [Troy] Tulowitzki signed that 10-year contract [with the Rockies], I was blown away. I can't imagine seeing myself 10 years from now saying I want to be here. It's an overwhelming thing to ask a young person like myself and say, 'Here's a lot of money. Be happy with this over 10 years, deal with it.'"

While Votto is getting less money and years to sign than Bruce, his salary averages to $12.7 million per year -- with the current year-by-year breakdown not yet known. And in the contract negotiated by agent Dan Lozano, Votto is not giving any free-agent eligible years away.

Votto made $525,000 last season, while helping the Reds win the NL Central Division crown.

The Reds shelled out a large sum of money knowing Votto could still walk away to free agency in three years. Albert Pujols, also represented by Lozano, made $32 million over the first three years of his seven-year, $100 million extension signed in 2004. However, Pujols was more established in the three seasons before getting that contract than Votto was in his first three years in the Majors.

On the other hand, Cincinnati is getting the benefit of cost certainty for a key player whose price tag could really escalate if he backs up his MVP season with another spectacular year in '11. Ryan Howard won a record arbitration settlement of $10 million in '08. In '09, Howard avoided arbitration with a three-year, $54 million contract with the Phillies that will pay him $20 million this coming season in its final year.

Mark Sheldon is a reporter for MLB.com Read his blog, Mark My Word and follow him on Twitter @m_sheldon. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.