CINCINNATI -- In light of the nine-year contract, reportedly worth $214 million, that Prince Fielder signed with the Tigers on Thursday, it's time to start wondering about Joey Votto's future with the Reds.
Votto is signed through 2013 and can become a first-time free agent after that season. In addition to Fielder, Albert Pujols -- who has the same agent as Votto -- signed a 10-year, $240 million contract with the Angels this offseason.
Despite the precedent set by these two contracts, Reds CEO Bob Castellini didn't rule out Cincinnati making the effort to sign the 2010 National League Most Valuable Player to an extension.
"I think that's a challenge, but we've got a lot of challenges," Castellini said at the Reds Caravan kickoff event on Thursday. "It's certainly something we would want to do."
Last winter, Votto signed a three-year, $38 million contract that covered the remaining three years of his arbitration eligibility. At the time, Votto wanted to leave his long-term options open because he could not envision himself making a longer commitment.
That triggered speculation that Votto might be traded during this winter. General manager Walt Jocketty repeatedly -- and emphatically -- shot those rumors down while saying the team wanted to win and needed its best player. Perhaps knowing the window of opportunity could still be limited if Votto moved on in two years, Jocketty has made several improvements to Cincinnati's roster this winter in an effort to go for the NL Central title in 2012.
Votto, 28, is due to make $9.5 million in 2012 and $17 million in 2013, plus he is still due $3.5 million of his $6 million signing bonus. Since his debut in 2007, he is a career .313 hitter with 119 home runs, 401 RBIs, a .405 on-base percentage and a .550 slugging percentage.
Castellini believes that he and Jocketty could initiate extension talks as early as this year.
"I think Walt has been in pursuit of that for a while," Castellini said. "It's something we know is a big challenge for us. It's certainly is desirable."
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.